When Predator came out in 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger was already a huge action star following Conan,
Terminator and Commando, but
the movie introduced an equally enduring character in the form of the ruthless,
dreadlocked, alien hunter that is the predator. A creature that can make itself
virtually invisible, while being able to trace its prey by its heat signature,
it is practically indestructible, except by Arnie, of course. The film’s
popularity came from the fact that it was a big, dumb action movie of the
hunter and the hunted. No
pretence of character development or clever dialogue, it was all about survival
in the jungle.
success of the first Predator movie, a young, up-and-coming filmmaker from
Texas, Robert Rodriguez,
was hired to write a screenplay for the sequel. His rampant imagination made
the film prohibitively expensive and it was shelved, for 20 years. Now, one
sequel and a couple of tag-team matches with the Aliens later, and those super-hunters are back, with
Rodriguez as producer.
The story sticks to
the formula of the first film with a bunch of warriors being parachuted into a
jungle, except this disparate gang of renegade killers have no idea where they
are, nor how they got there. They soon discover that they are very far from
home and it is a battle for survival against the merciless predators who have
brought them in for sport.
Although the gang is
made up of diverse range stereotypical characters: a mercenary played by Adrien
Brody, who does an impressive
job taking over Arnie’s lead role, especially given Brody’s previous roles; an
female Israeli sniper (Brazilian actress Alice Braga of I Am Legend); an enforcer for a Mexican drug cartel
(Rodriguez regular, Danny Trejo);
a Russian Special Forces soldier (the massive mixed martial arts champion Oleg
Taktarov); a Sierra Leone
death squad member (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali – The 4400), a death row mass-murderer, armed only
with a prison shiv (Walton Goggins);
barefooted, besuited Yakuza enforcer (Louis Ozawa Changchien); a doctor with apparently no fighting skills
whatsoever (Topher Grace – Spider-Man) and a survivor from a previous hunt (Fishburne – The Matrix). You know most of them aren’t going to
survive and none of them trust each other, so it is just a matter of going
along for the gory ride and seeing how and when they will be dispatched.
There is no pretence
to allegory or social commentary, although it may be able to invent some if you
wanted. However, amongst all the carnage, there are moments of gallows humour
and occasional pop culture references, such as referring to the original movie,
or subtler things The Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background when
Fishburne arrives (the music was used in Apocalypse Now, which was Fishburne’s first movie). The set
pieces and special effects are a marked improvement over the original, although
the film does use plenty of practical effects, especially for the Predators.
Basically, this is
an upgraded version of the original big, dumb action movie, with a smaller,
smarter hero and some surprises at the end, and sometimes you don’t need
much more from a movie.