Shane Black’s The Predator disappoints and underwhelms at an alarming, so very heartbreaking rate. Hapless story mismanagement exposes major pacing issues that squander Black’s franchise-spanning roast humor (which is truly in good fun). Appropriate mechanisms lock into place – looney bin jarheads, Predator hybridization, slaughterhouse human reaping – but “halfway there” seems to represent the film’s rush-on-through motto. Halfway competent character care-taking, halfway invigorated sci-fi action and halfway….well, more like EXTREME over-editing eradicates any feeling of coherency into rapid-fire highlights without dotted line connections.
With each new Predator entry, it’s hard not to wonder if John McTiernan’s 1980s machismo classic captures intergalactic lightning in a bottle the likes of which we’ll never experience again.
Garrett Hedlund Boyd Holbrook stars as Quinn McKenna, a specials ops marksman who stumbles upon an alien spacecraft wreck. This brings him face to face with an extraterrestrial warrior – that he incapacitates – which in turn brings government agent Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) knocking. Quinn’s detained for seeing too much, but not before shipping home some interplanetary evidence that his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) interacts with – summoning an Ultimate Predator unto Earth. With the help of his new criminally insane ex-soldier platoon and “a disgruntled science teacher” (Olivia Munn as Casey Bracket), Quinn must save his son, evade Traeger’s recapture efforts, save Earth and try not to die in the process. Par for the course when Predators are involved.
It’s hard to keep up with The Predator given how sloppily and slapdash editing chops flow together. Major characters are slain but you’ll hardly realize it given how chaotic the cinematography becomes. Locations jump from science facility to biker hotel to isolated spacecraft outpost like time doesn’t matter, completely ignorant to glossed-over character arcs in the process.
Was there a more coherent Earthbound invasion before reshoots converted Black and Fred Dekker’s finale to nighttime? One *has* to assume so given how the darkened “hunt” causes multiple third-act deaths to go completely unnoticed thanks to – once again – reckless editing and general visibility problems. Black’s proven himself a capable mainstream filmmaker on numerous occasions, so what the heck explains this catastrophic and almost completely jettisonable third act?
Digital effects pixelate a lackluster picture of The Predator, as green exotic blood splatters everywhere like Ecto Cooler, only way faker looking. Multiple stab-and-dismember sequences bring heaps of grindhouse gore – Super Predator uses his Scorpion-inspired chain launcher to decapitate multiple riders in a military jeep, starfish Yautja blades slice Quinn’s cohorts like slaughterhouse pigs – but post-production “enhancements” struggle with dreadlocked Predator doggo designs and even Mr. Ultimate Predator himself. Average Joe Predator looks mean and mighty all costumed up, yet once animation takes over for Thicc Daddy Predator, practicality’s traded for computer-generated brutality. By blockbuster standards, it’s inexcusable at times.
Black also distractedly tries to accomplish/say/orchestrate too much given The Predator‘s inclusive agency. Rory McKenna lives with Asperger’s Syndrome (well performed by Tremblay), Baxley (Thomas Jane) has Tourette’s, Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) warns against the “R” word’s insensitivity, Traeger drops an “N” bomb for some reason and climate control dominates a tone-shifting monologue – mind you, this is all while Black and Dekker attempt to juggle eleventy-billion other storyboard ideas.
Elsewhere, Jake Busey continues the Keyes legacy (for one scene then vanishes)? Yvonne Strahovski is left behind as Quinn’s wife? And a Predator dissenter gifts mankind a peace offering for no foreseeable reason? No casualties are sustained until what seems like the final ten minutes, where demises become as unceremonious as Black’s inability to feign interest in Quinn’s rag-tag platoon. Where Predator is a masterclass in meticulous thriller patience, The Predator understands nothing about sustainability or structure.
Worse still, not *all* of The Predator whiffs.
Boyd Hedlund Garrett Holbrook Boyd Holbrook’s interchangeable white-boy-hero may crazy-eyes his way through a generic leader role, only because Trevante Rhodes as Nebraska Williams hogs all the charisma for himself. Quinn’s military rejects banter and bullshit with gruff ballbuster instability as only Rhodes or Keegan Michael-Key might ensure. Rhodes, always puffing his cigarette and chuckling in Death’s face. Augusto Aguilera helplessly hits on Olivia Munn’s not-having-it brainiac, Thomas Jane shouts obscenities, Alfie Allen does card tricks and wants to blow stuff up – alright, not *every* arc works, but dammit if Quinn isn’t overshadowed by his squad’s ready-to-die soldier’s fortune.
Plus, we also get Olivia Munn soldiering right alongside Quinn’s underdogs despite no revealed background of combat training. And evil Sterling K. Brown as a slimy “top secret cleaner” to the extreme? There *has* to be a better movie in here somewhere.
The Predator is at its best when questioning franchise normality to this point. Nebraska and Casey bond over how “The Predator” nickname doesn’t fit their pursuer’s hunting style – for sport, not necessity. Coyle and Baxley evolve Mac and Blain’s unspoken relationship undertones into legitimate romantic gazes between characters bonded by post-stress tragedy. There’s plenty of fan-servicing – “Get to the chopper” – but Black’s explanation of Predator trophies (skulls and spines) being used to upgrade their extraterrestrial race is intriguing beyond previous AVP or Predators attempts.
Alas, squandered potential is the name of Shane Black’s deadly bloodsport. From a Halloween backdrop that plays little significance to characters who play little significance to death sequences that assert even less flippin’ significance, The Predator is an irresponsibly mundane small-town defense devoid of projected enthusiasm.
Black assumes he’ll have another opportunity to clear up any confusion possibly (definitely) created by The Predator, which is a poor outlook to rely on. Yautja disinterest such as this brings me no joy, just as much as I hate confirming that wicked trailer shot of Trevante Rhodes’s bulging biceps mid machine gun fire was left somewhere on an editing bay floor. Maybe it’s…dare I say…time for a reboot?
The Predator guts and slashes its way to gory sci-fi mediocrity, but is further failed by abysmal pacing that loses characters, subplots and interest along the way.