Let’s lay it out: what makes a good action movie? (a.) a team that can be introduced in a few quick brush-strokes, but still seem solidly believable; (b.) a hero who manages to be both an everyman and extra-ordinary; (c.) characters you care about (there’s no drama without risk); (d.) brisk action with plenty of room to switch into top gear when needed; (e.) a plot that’s clear and makes sense; (f.) knock out SFXs and stunts.
You’ll be pleased to know The Predator has all of these things. Plus, of course, Stan Winston’s iconic creature. In fact, Shane Black’s latest entry into the Predator franchise feels very much like an ‘80s action flick, following on directly from events in Predator and Predator 2 (although set prior to Predators).
That’s not so surprising when you realise that Black not only appeared in Predator (playing Rick Hawkins) but also acted as the film’s uncredited script doctor.
The performances are top notch, and it’s especially heartening to see Olivia Munn and Yvonne Strzechowski given meatier roles than is usual in this sort of film. The Predator gets a serious upgrade. The comedy is well-played, with lots of machine-gun quipping. And while lead, Boyd Holbrook (McKenna), is more of a Royce than a Dutch, he can clearly kick-ass with the best of them.
If The Predator is a four- rather than a five-star film it’s because plot lines involving autism and mental illness really have no place in a film full of cod science and macho-posturing. McKenna’s team is made up, variously, of sufferers of Tourettes, PTSD, depression, and brain trauma. And that’s a set up that seems far too One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest for comfort in a silly action flick.