Friday 14 September 2018

The Predator (aka Predator 6)

Pawn Of The Pred

The Predator (aka Predator 6)
2018 USA/Canada Directed by Shane Black
UK cinema release print.

Well this was a bit of a nice surprise.

I’ve never really been much into the Predator franchise, it has to be said. I saw each of them in the cinema once when they were released, starting when the first film debuted back in 1987 and... I may have seen the two entries I quite liked a second time on VHS or DVD (depending on when they went to home video). I remember getting quite enraged as a 19 year old when Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to outrun the shockwave of a small nuclear explosion (or some such) in the first one. Any credibility flew out the window at that point although, I have to say, the film is due a revisit since I was maybe not appreciative of the action movie format (something I wasn’t really into at the time) as not actually having to be credible as a real world event (the fact that I loved Jason Statham as The Transporter would indicate a subtle rehabilitation in that area, on my part).

So, the only two I felt were half good enough to revisit were Predator 2 (which at least put the Predator in an urban environment I could relate to, other than a jungle) and the first, much better, Alien Vs Predator movie, despite the enraging continuity errors. Although the studio managed to totally ruin that offshoot from the franchise by following it up with a “beyond dull” teenage slasher film of a sequel which just happened to have an Alien and a Predator in it (the only really outstanding or noteworthy thing about the whole charade of Alien Vs Predator: Requiem was Brian Tyler’s excellent score).

Anyway, Shane Black’s new entry into the series, The Predator, is actually a lot better than at least four of those previous movies and, despite having terrible trailers, actually reminded me why I like Shane Black as a screenwriter in the first place (he directed this one too... not to mention played one of the original team in the very first Predator movie). Now, there are some bad things about this, for sure, but they never really detract from the main mission of a lot of films with big box office expectations like this... it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

The film centres on a government sniper whose mission goes very wrong after a Predator crashes on Earth, right on top of him and his targets. The sniper has the unlikely name of Quinn McKenna and he’s played here by an actor I’ve kinda liked in everything I’ve seen him in... Boyd Holbrook. After mailing some high tech Predator stuff he acquires early on to his autistic son, living with his ex-wife, for safekeeping, he is picked up by a Predator hunting squad and is going to be the scapegoat for the deaths of his unit since a patsy is needed. So he goes into a prisoner transport van where he meets a complete load of nutters... literally, none of these would be great customers for counselling... who laugh at him until the Predator that is still alive breaks out of captivity to look for... something I’m not going to tell you about in this hopefully spoiler free review. Meanwhile, the main female lead of the film, scientist Casey Bracket (played by Olivia Munn) is called in because she ‘knows biology’. There’s kind of a plot hole here in terms of why she would need to be recruited and then also need to be sillenced after the Predator breaks out but... who cares, like I said, it’s kind of fun. So Casey and Quinn hook up with the guys in the bus... who make The Dream Team look positively sane... and they try to get to Quinn’s little boy while avoiding death by both government agency and alien before said alien turns up at Quinn’s son’s house. However, there are bigger things happening and the story is nowhere near as simplistic as the previous films in the series so... I don’t want to give any surprises away here.

And it’s an entertaining, if a little messy in some places, piece of filmmaking. The script and especially the dialogue from Black is exceptional and quick fire and all the actors tend to gel with each other really well. The bunch of nutters from the bus deliver the typical Black, rapid fire dialogue and with such a pace that they make The Marx Brothers look positively sedate by comparison in some scenes. Casey is written a little bit like a male character wearing a skirt, to an extent but.... I have known women like this so I’m cutting the writer a little slack here.

Also, a big shout out to Jacob Tremblay as Quinn’s son Rory. Sure he’s a typical Shane Black character in the sense that, if Shane Black writes a movie it’s usually got a kid and some Christmas scenes in it but... in this case, he does become a big mover and shaker in this film with a lot to do. Oh... and for all those of you waiting for a Christmas scene to turn up in this... he's switched it to another festive occasion here... although, again, I’m not saying which one.

So, the film is chock full of humour and a lot of action but it never quite gets to the point where the hectic nature of the pacing... and it really is hectic and chaotic folks, make no mistake... causes you to want to rest your head in your hands for a minute or two. It’s absolutely not boring, for sure and, yeah, doesn’t quite outstay its welcome... although the ‘sequel positioning’ last scene may be just a bit too much for some.

Another thing the film is full of is gory violence... but it’s not fetishising the severity of its blood letting the way a strong horror movie might. This is strong violence but it’s pretty much always treated in a carefree or throwaway manner and... that’s a nice approach. Some of the stronger stuff (probably stronger than any of its predecessors in terms of visceral thrills) is ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ quick and this adds a certain level of credibility and consequence to the on-screen action. It’s a nice way of doing it and this ‘matter of fact’ level of violence is refreshing in a big budget, Hollywood movie, I think.

Now, I said the film was messy and... well it is. The follow through from one sequence to another jumps about a bit. For instance, the three plot strands of Quinn, Casey and Rory all come together really easily with hardly any time passing (although the mailman with that package must be lightening fast if this is truly the case) and it seems like some bizarre coincidence that they suddenly all seem to be taking place in the same area of America. Indeed, there was more than one scene where characters turned up in the other character’s backyard, so to speak, without hardly any time seeming to have passed at all between strands of the story. It disd jump me out of the movie a couple of times, I can tell you that.

Again, though, I can forgive the director and editor for this because they’ve delivered a really entertaining sci-fi action yarn and, when the film does seem to be a little jumpy, it’s got some excellent glue holding it together. That glue being the beautiful throwback 1980s style score by composer Henry Jackman. Using themes and orchestration from Alan Silvestri’s scores for the first two movies, Jackman surprised me with a rich retro orchestral sound I haven’t heard much in a while (even from Silvestri himself). Alas, at the time of my writing this, no CD release seems to be in sight and I’m not paying out for a download, I can tell you that. Jackman really does a good job with this one, though, and it’s one of those films where the music lingers on with you for a day when you look back on it. It’s very appropriate to this glorious mess of a movie Black and his crew have crafted and I’m all for it.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it from me on this one. The Predator is a nice slice of action sci-fi with a lot of humour, violence and  great acting chemistry coming out of its celluloid ears. There’s even some nice scenes for dog lovers but... you know... spoilers. If you liked the previous film in the series then you should get a kick out of this one. It’s not exactly subtle but it will probably put a smile on your face every now and again and that’s no bad thing. Worth a look.

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