Lethal With Weapons
The galaxy’s greatest killer is back, now with added definite article.
released OUT NOW! 15 | 107 minutes Director shane Black Cast Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, sterling K Brown, Trevante rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key
Much like their occasional quarry the Xenomorphs, the Predators haven’t headlined a classic in over three decades. Even so, there’s something so iconic about their “galaxy’s ultimate hunter” MO that it’s easy to see why 20th Century Fox persists in bringing them back to Earth to put another bunch of unfortunate humans in their crosshairs.
Unlike the much-derided Alien V Predator films and the easily forgotten Predators, however, new sequel The Predator makes the trip across space worthwhile. Returning to the franchise for the first time since he became a Predator’s first on-screen kill in the 1987 original, writer/director Shane Black harks back to the era when he scripted Lethal Weapon to craft an unashamedly big, dumb action movie. It may bring little new to the party, but it does pack bags of popcorn fun into its tight, sub-two-hour runtime.
Crucially, The Predator isn’t just a naive retread that expects us to buy that everyone in it is seeing a game-hunting alien for the first time. The US government actually knows all about them and wants their tech, while the Predators have a similar obsession with humans that justifies their numerous trips to Earth. But, clearly realising that Predators work better as Michael Myersstyle bogeymen than fully-rounded protagonists, Black wisely keeps the alien mythology to the bare minimum – any more information would erode their mystique as much as the AvP films did.
Besides, Black seems much less interested in the ETs than his human characters – and what being on an extraterrestrial kill list does to them. As in the original movie, there’s a cartoonish quality to the ensemble, all of whom can be instantly pigeonholed as the leader, the scientist, the clown, the sensitive one… you know the drill. But in this context it’s an efficient shorthand that does the legwork necessary to make sure you do give a damn when they have their inevitable meetings with the sharp end of a Predator weapon. And they’re not just cookie-cutter action stars, either, as Black’s script makes heroes of those traditionally marginalised by Hollywood (a unit of soldiers from a psychiatric hospital; a kid with Asperger’s) – an admirable mission statement for the movie.
Though the action sequences generally hit the target, the real fireworks come in a script that sizzles with snark. Revelling in its inherent ridiculousness, The Predator is genuinely funny, with even the callbacks to earlier movies coming off – most notably a hilarious riff on “get to da choppa!” and an ongoing debate about the idiocy of calling what is, essentially, a hunter, a Predator.
So while The Predator doesn’t linger long in the memory, it is a hell of a ride – though it’s probably worth crossing your fingers that the very silly coda doesn’t inspire the plot of any subsequent instalments. Richard Edwards
Packs bags of popcorn fun into its runtime
The movie’s Lawrence A Gordon Middle School is named after one of the producers on the original Predator.
He’s also a real hit at children’s birthday parties.