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The Predator Movie Review

The Predator (2018) movie poster The Predator

Theatrical Release: September 14, 2018 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Shane Black / Writers: Fred Dekker, Shane Black (screenplay); Jim Thomas, John Thomas (characters)

Cast: Boyd Holbrook (Quinn McKenna), Trevante Rhodes (Gaylord "Nebraska" Williams), Jacob Tremblay (Rory McKenna), Keegan-Michael Key (Coyle), Olivia Munn (Casey Bracket), Sterling K. Brown (Traeger), Thomas Jane (Baxley), Alfie Allen (Lynch), Augusto Aguilera (Nettles), Jake Busey (Keyes), Yvonne Strahovski (Emily McKenna), Brian Prince (Predator), Mike Dopud (Dupree), Niall Matter (Sapir), Javier Lacroix (Cantina Bartender)

 

With Star Wars now at Disney, Alien having experienced a sharp decline in demand, Wolverine retired, and the X-Men seemingly awaiting absorption into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 20th Century Fox does not have an abundance of beloved franchises at the moment. Thus, the studio isn't above experimenting with established brands, even if they're not super popular.
There hadn't been a highly regarded Planet of the Apes movie in over forty years when they gave birth to the trilogy whose every installment ranks among this decade's top films. Perhaps the thinking is that with the right people any universe could be similarly revived.

The Predator franchise is not entirely unlike pre-reboot Apes in that it contains one esteemed sci-fi action movie and a number of less respected sequels. 1987's Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is somewhat celebrated. After just a single sequel and a big break, the line crossed paths with a kindred Fox franchise in two Alien vs. Predator movies. Then, there was 2010's Predators produced by Robert Rodriguez, a passable reboot that didn't exactly spark fervor. Now here is The Predator, directed and co-written by Shane Black, who began his career as a Lethal Weapon scribe, acted in the original Predator (and reportedly did uncredited script work), and has since earned high marks for helming the crime action-comedies Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Black also directed and co-wrote Iron Man 3, so he's not unversed in sci-fi fare with more commercial leanings.

This newest chapter opens in a Mexican jungle where Army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is about to take out some members of a drug cartel during a hostage exchange. Instead, an alien spacecraft crashes down there and out comes a familiar presence: a tall, dreadlocked alien who is virtually indestructible and, when he wants to be, pretty invisible. McKenna narrowly escapes with his life and mails back a helmet and armpiece from this fierce creature who took the lives of two of his soldiers to his son Rory (Room's Jacob Tremblay), a middle school genius with pretty severe Asperger anxieties.

The Predator escapes from a top secret government research compound in Shane Black's 2018 film "The Predator."

The gifted Rory soon activates and explores the otherworldly tech, finding a suitable Halloween mask out of it in the process. His use of the materials does put a bullseye on the house and family for the alien, who we've seen escape tranquilized restraint in a high-tech government science lab where pretty biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) has been brought in to lend her expertise. The facility escape also happens to be where the elder McKenna finds himself being transported to some group therapy after his account of the jungle phenomenon gets him a dubious psychiatric evaluation.

McKenna is welcomed into "Group 2", which consists of fellow handcuffed former military personnel. There's Tourette's-afflicted Baxley (Thomas Jane), his wisecracking covert lover Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), the affable spokesman of the group Nebraska (Moonlight's Trevante Rhodes), an awkward former helicopter pilot who's big on the Bible (Augusto Aguilera), and an Englishman (Alfie Allen). These misfits form an appealing dynamic that serves The Predator well. It isn't long before they shed their shackles and break free from their captors, ready to do battle with the predator on their own terms with no outside interference.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple in feature-length films and the gang runs into some resistance from the government agents (led by a firecracker Sterling K. Brown) who are eager to silence both McKenna and Casey. Instead, Casey and the fugitives hit McKenna's suburban neighborhood on Halloween, where they encounter an additional predator and a couple of harmless predator dogs.

A Woman (Olivia Munn) and an autistic child (Jacob Tremblay) feature among the leads of "The Predator." Military misfits on the run prove to be Earth's first line of defense against the deadly predator in "The Predator."

Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, RoboCop 3) seem well aware that this isn't a franchise with a devout, passionate fanbase. This is a standalone effort that soon and repeatedly distinguishes itself from previous installments that were predominantly set in the jungle. If there is anything iconic about the Schwarzenegger original, it is the invisibility and the heat vision point-of-view shots. We get little of the former and just one shot of the latter near the end of the movie. No one is treating this like sacred ground, nor should they. This is not just another Predator movie, but a Shane Black Predator movie, which is -- as you might expect -- funny, exciting, and plenty violent.

We probably could have gotten a better and more artistic movie had the studio took the origin story approach of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But this isn't Apes and there's no reason to borrow its winning playbook. Black does fine trusting his own instincts and ends up with something that feels fresh and new but is also kind of a throwback with its seemingly sparing use of CGI and greater reliance on fleshed-out human characters.

The cast is game. Holbrook, relegated for several years to supporting roles including Logan, makes a compelling argument for leading man status. Munn, as the Bryce Dallas Howard of the piece,
is amusing and appealing. Tremblay, who you don't really expect to show up here, let alone at such length, adds some humanity and sweetness. This might just be his best performance yet and it is certainly his most nuanced. And the rest chip in where they can, supplying humor, pride, and sharp dialogue delivery as needed.

Drawing mixed to negative reviews, this probably won't be any more of a hit opening now (September 14th is the fourth release date assigned to this) than the last revival attempt, 2010's summer-debuted Predators, was. That opened in third place with $25 million and barely doubled its first weekend tally to the tune of $52 million and $127 million worldwide. Those numbers would be less than fine for this film, which reportedly only carried a production budget of $88 million, or more than twice the former ignoring inflation.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Kin The Meg The Nun Searching
Directed by Shane Black: The Nice Guys Iron Man 3
Predators (2010) Rampage Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Boyd Holbrook: Logan Cardboard Boxer Morgan Very Good Girls A Walk Among the Tombstones Run All Night Gone Girl
Olivia Munn: I Don't Know How She Does It Office Christmas Party | Trevante Rhodes: Moonlight 12 Strong
Jacob Tremblay: Room Wonder The Book of Henry | Sterling K. Brown: Black Panther Army Wives: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed September 11, 2018.



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