Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key
Directed by Shane Black
The Predator is back in theaters for its fourth solo outing, and its time would have been better spent hunting for a cohesive third act rather than any of the film’s characters. Holy jumping Jesus on a rubber crutch! Rarely has a film dropped the ball as bad as this one does for its second half. Before we get to that, though, here’s a quick plot crunch…
Quinn McKenna (Holbrook) is an instrument of military firepower. A crack sniper who rarely sends a shot astray. That is, until an alien spacecraft crash lands right in the middle of his current mission. Quicker than you can yell “ABORT,” McKenna, knowing that no one is going to believe aliens interfered with his op and killed his squad, finds some Predator tech and mails it to a PO Box in his home town, where it eventually ends up in the hands of his son, Rory (Tremblay), who is stricken with, but not limited by, Asperger syndrome.
From there Quinn is brought in for a psych evaluation designed by nefarious government man Traeger (Brown) to paint him as the fall guy in terms of who’s to blame for his squad’s demise. Just another loony soldier who has snapped. Eventually he’s placed on a bus filled with other “unstable” soldiers who will eventually become his allies in a war of intergalactic proportions.
The setup is pretty standard stuff, but it is all that it has to be. And for the first half of the film, it completely works. In fact, the first hour of The Predator is 100% adrenaline-fueled awesome thanks to breakneck pacing and a witty – and more importantly, smart – script that’s filled with enough alien action to have the audience happily onboard for the ride and cheering all the way as our collective brains officially switch to autopilot.
In due course McKenna’s Predator meets up with an eleven-foot tall Super Predator who’s on the hunt for him and, after an all-too-brief skirmish, ends up pretty much how you see him on the film’s poster. No subtle spoiler alert is needed here as we all knew this newly evolved Super Predator was going to be the main antagonist of this flick the entire time. The problem is that when the more classic Predator dies… so does the rest of the movie, with the script being the biggest casualty; and things stop making even a shred of sense rather quickly, even as the jokes keep coming long after things should have taken a more serious turn.
That’s right, kids; from there on out The Predator is a sloppy, aimless mess that’s choppier than a cannibal at an all-you-can-eat flesh buffet. Characters literally come and go with no rhyme, reason, or focus. The editing is so horrendously bad that I defy anyone to tell me without a shadow of a doubt what happened to Sterling K. Brown’s character (who, next to the Super Predator itself, was the film’s main baddie). I legit do not know, and I was paying attention. After the film ended, I wasn’t the only one puzzled. There was much talk over what happened to Traeger. Some said he was just quickly killed, others said he was the victim of a shoulder cannon malfunction, but no one really knew for sure. That’s not a good sign. There’s no doubt that anyone specifically watching the film to see what happens to his character – if only out of morbid curiosity – will get an answer, but whatever that answer may be, it’s not going to be a satisfactory one… especially one fitting the main human antagonist of a Predator or any film for that matter. McKenna’s estranged wife (Yvonne Strahovski) also disappears about halfway through the film, and Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”) comes and goes from being a part of the squad as often as you’re likely to grab a handful of popcorn to toss into your mouth. Maybe he was being called back to Westeros and could only show up part-time so they just worked around him? Honestly, I don’t know.
That said, there are a couple of standout moments in the third act. Particularly worthy of mention is the relationship between Baxley (Jane) and Coyle (Key). They’re the only two characters who shine consistently throughout the film. The Predator famously went through some rewrites here and there, but it’s hard to fathom that after the gangbusters first half this was the best they could piece together for the finale. Even the Super Predator itself feels like little more than a plot device whose main purpose is to roar, kill things in shoddily edited ways, and be a bullet sponge.
As it stands, The Predator is the worst outing for this iconic character since the original Alien vs. Predator. In fact, other then a stellar first half, the only thing The Predator has over AVP is that at the very least the Predators here don’t strangely resemble Jay Leno.
If you would have told me that’s how this ends up after the first hour, I would have told you no way… there’s just no way possible it could go off the rails that much. Yet, it does. Things are left open for a sequel, but it’s hard to get over the fact that there was a better movie in here somewhere. One that was eviscerated like one of the creature’s many victims. Maybe we’ll get that version on Blu-ray? Pretty please? Sugar on top? I’ll give you a dollar!