Shane Black’s The Predator is the continuation of a sci-fi saga that started with 1987’s Predator. Each film in the Predator franchise has a different mood but they all have one thing in common – dreadlock’d aliens hunting and killing humans with the use of very cool technology.
The Predator is a direct sequel to 1987’s Predator and 1990’s Predator 2. Underneath the sci-fi canvas, the first two movies are gritty, and sometimes terrifying, survival films – one takes place in a jungle and the other in a concrete jungle. Shane Black takes a more comical approach to telling this story and uses his R-rating to pile on the explicit language, crass humor, violence and gore.
This story follows Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), an Army Ranger that has an unfortunate run in with a Predator. After surviving the attack, the Predator is taken to a lab to be examined. Government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K Brown) has McKenna sent away with a group of military vets. When the Predator escapes from the lab, McKenna takes on the alien with the group of vets he lovingly nicknames “The Loonies” (played by Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Agusto Aguillera, and Trevante Rhodes).
If that’s not crazy enough, the Predator is being hunted by a bigger Predator. The bigger Predator is looking for something that will eventually lead him to McKenna’s son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay). This forces McKenna and his rag tag group of soldiers, including a science teacher played by Olivia Munn, to head to a small suburban American town and fight one of the galaxy’s most lethal hunters.
How does a science teacher know how to fight? How do humans know how to use alien technology? Why are you bringing your child on a mission where you’ll most likely die? These are just a few head scratching questions this movie dares audiences to ask.
The Predator is best described as an R-rated sci-fi comedy. It has some incredible, and very gruesome, Predator kills. It also has enough f-bombs and exploding heads to fit into Tarantino’s filmography. The r-rated language and violence is paired with some ridiculously good laugh out loud moments. The film goes out of its way to be funny and that creates a much lighter tone than the previous films.
Boyd Holdbrook does his best to lead the charge. He doesn’t have the charisma of an action star, but he has a way of making everything his character does seem believable. Holbrook is gifted at making audiences follow his characters on whatever journey he takes them on.
The person having the most fun is Sterling K Brown. He embraces the role of the human villain and gets to be as ruthless and badass as he wants to. Brown has all the funny one-liners, quips, and retorts – he embraces the ridiculousness of his character and hams it up big time. Brown chews gum and laughs for most of his screen time, yet his shadowy agent character is the best thing in the film.
There’s no big action set piece that anchors the film. The final showdown is a conventional action movie finale that leaves a lot to be desired. None of the action is new or memorable, it’s more of a place holder until the story returns to the comedy more than anything else.
Even with all of that said, The Predator is silly from beginning to end. It’s a popcorn movie that never takes itself too serious. Even as part of an ongoing sci-fi franchise, the film never commits to being a sci-fi. There’s the occasional science-y explanation and cool Predator technology, but that’s it. It’s a wacky ride with great laughs and some enjoyable action. The film sets up a sequel but I’m not sure this off-the-wall brand of Predator will sit well with enough moviegoers.