If you get at least one thing from “The Predator,” it’s definitely a good laugh.
Written and directed by Shane Black, who played Hawkins in the original 1987 “Predator,” its 2018 reboot is more of a hilarious romp than a horror-inducing action movie — for better and for worse. The latest iteration is a bit of an enigma. The writing and directing of the film doesn’t work most of the time, yet you can’t help but have a lot of fun.
The movie starts with Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) and his crew as they encounter a “predator.” As usual, things go awry and everyone but McKenna dies, bringing a top-secret military organization led by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) — who is an absolute scene stealer — to try to find McKenna as they pin the deaths on him. The organization, designed to track and study “predators,” enlists the help of brilliant biologist Casey Bracket, played by Olivia Munn, to study the newest “predator” DNA.
Another opening sequence shows McKenna sending “predator” technology to his estranged wife and son Rory’s house. His autistic son, played by Jacob Tremblay, becomes quickly familiar with the “predator” technology. Although this fixation doesn’t seem relevant yet, the audience accepts it and keeps watching, something “the predator” makes you do very often.
Writers Black and Fred Dekker set up a web of different storylines in the first act that feels clunky. Black and Dekker continue to propel the story forward, which sums up most of the movie’s structure. A lot of the actual story is glossed over with a lot of Black’s rapid fire witty dialogue which mostly comes from a group of military misfits known as “the Loonies.”
The story comes together when McKenna is put on a bus with “the Loonies,” comprised of Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), Lynch (Alfie Allen), Baxley (Thomas Jane), and Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key). The group of actors give good performances and deliver sharp dialogue while maintaining a likable, underdog persona.
The ragtag group does give us some of the film’s best moments but “the Predator” likes to give and take. The common thread throughout this has been the constant laughs. While a lot of them land, some are just distracting and diverging from the emotional gravitas of certain characters’ arcs. Baxley and Coyle have an emotional moment but it immediately takes a weird turn for the sake of a laugh.
Another give-and-take are the action sequences. Some of the action scenes are insane, including the introduction of the new “predator” dogs, yet the bad computer-generated imagery (CGI) tends to cheapen the film’s overall look. It seems to harken back to film’s 1987 original, but it is 2018, so would sharper CGI be such a bad thing? Along with the CGI, the entire third act is utter chaos and drags for too long.
Negatives aside, the best part of the third act is getting to see more of Brown’s Traeger, who is devilishly good at being a bad guy. From giving a funny explanation on why the alien is called “the Predator” despite it being more of a hunter to getting us to downright hate him, Brown knocks it out of the park by making us wish he was given more to do.
Despite some glaring flaws, “The Predator” did what it set out to do — have a wildly fun time. It’s a entertaining popcorn flick, and judging by a little fun bit at the end, we’ll probably be getting more of “the Predator” whether you like it or not.
Runtime: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: R