The Predator is making headlines these days for all the wrong reasons. Few of them will describe the latest take on the franchise as a particularly good movie.
To its credit, the film actually finds some fresh ground to explore in the series. It’s too bad then that it’s such a weird hybrid of goofy comedy and bloody vicious action. The film can’t have it both ways. Too often The Predator feels like a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.
When a Predator crash lands on Earth, military sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, Gone Girl) snags some of its hardware. Quinn isn’t trying to share all of his intel and gets tossed in a military prison bus with fellow losers (Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera) when The Predator comes back for his gear.
Partnering with biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn, X-Men: Apocalypse), the soldiers not only have to contend with multiple predators, but a strike force led by researcher Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, Hotel Artemis). And Quinn has to save his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay, Room) before the predators come gunning for him.
There’s some laughs here, which is odd since I’ve never anticipated a lot of comedy in a Predator film. The jokes start to have a try hard feeling by the midpoint. Director/co-writer Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and co-writer Fred Dekker don’t seem to worry about tone or how scenes line up with one another. Who cares if characters get dismembered and decapitated if the scene ends with the Predator grabbing an arm to give a thumbs up gesture?
Some of the humor is on the bewilderment level of I couldn’t believe someone thought this scene made sense. In the true comedic low points, there’s constant mocking of Baxley’s Tourette syndrome, Rory’s Asperger’s syndrome, PTSD and an overall shoddy treatment of the few female characters.
Baxley blurts out something so ridiculously vile and Casey is just supposed to go along with it. There’s some moments like the scene where a tranquilized Casey is placed legs spread facing Quinn on his motorcycle that seem like poor judgement. It’s hard to imagine a female director shooting that scene in a similar matter especially for a weak physical comedy gag.
Yvonne Strahovski seemed like a smart casting choice after her action heavy role in Chuck, but her character is on the sidelines having to rally the troops to follow her estranged husband Quinn.
A lot of action movies this year have managed to avoid star power logic. That’s when the star avoids the exact same fate that leaves another character dead. The Predator happily cheats its established rules by having the predators avoid killing blows for the stars. There’s no suspense if Casey is going to survive since she’s the only female and Quinn does absolutely nothing to warrant The Predator saving him for his final kill.
It doesn’t help that Holbrook is the least charismatic of the main cast. Brown blows him away in terms of being the most electric performer on screen whenever he appears to the point the film would have been a lot more entertaining if he switched roles with Holbrook. At least then Quinn’s swagger would have been believable. Key can’t pull off tough or remotely menacing while Rhodes does what he can with a limited supporting role. Allen is also wasted.
Black continues to be a talented, but frustrating filmmaker. His reliance on comedy in even the most stressful and dangerous scenarios dilutes the tension. He directs his cast as if they’re posturing first and acting naturally second. The stakes rarely feel like a matter of life or death and it’s largely due to Black’s nonchalant handling of these supposedly intense moments.
The Predator franchise has to be running low on fumes at this point. This wasn’t the film to reignite a fan base that’s ready for a comeback. It’s both impressive and sad that the 1987 original is still the high water mark of the series. The latest installment won’t be challenging for the throne and isn’t a contender.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox