The Predator (Shane Black, 2018) 2½ out of 4 stars.
In 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan, two Hollywood legends at the height of their power, came together and made Predator, an action film that successfully crossed multiple genres and remains a unique highlight on both these gentlemen’s respective film careers. 31 years later, Shane Black, an original cast member of the original Predator, takes a crack at this longstanding franchise and saturates it with his off-color brand of humor and violence.
After surviving a surprise attack by an alien creature somewhere in the Latin American jungle, Quinn McKenna, played by Boyd Holbrook, mails a couple of stolen pieces of the alien’s gear to his estranged wife and son just before he is taken in by a secret militaristic science team, led by Sterling K. Brown. Unsanctioned interrogations, threats of a lobotomy, and a bus full of crazy veterans later, Holbrook’s tolerance for the bizarre and unruly takes a sharp turn when he discovers the mysterious alien from his jungle incursion has followed him to the States and is looking for something that belongs to it.
Shane Black pushes the Predator franchise under a bright and shining light of dark, irreverent humor and charming characterization. A light this franchise has desperately needed for years. One can expect the human characters of a Shane Black flick to be funny and ridiculously lovable, but this time the body-slashing “Predator” takes a stab at the funny bone. After so many overtly downbeat incarnations of the titular alien, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the universe’s deadliest hunter show a different side and hold his own against comedians like Keegan-Michael Key.
While the characters and the humor of The Predator evoke similar parallels to the original Predator, Shane Black and co-screenwriter Fred Dekker mistakenly fill a 90-page screenplay full of subplots and interpersonal character drama commonly seen in a two-hour or two-and-a-half-hour blockbuster. The elements of The Predator that work so well are the same elements that made the original film an instant classic: simple characters and a generous serving of action and gore. Understandably, Shane Black wants to direct his interpretation of the beloved science-fiction character down different paths than the ones John McTiernan chose back in 1987. However, when the runtime of The Predator is as short as Predator, and Black’s film moves as quickly as McTiernan’s, it’s highly likely several aspects of the new film will leave the audience wanting much, much more from a movie that is otherwise definitely on the right track.