Review: 'The Predator'

Fun, freaky and zany, the alien hunter franchise returns
Dreadlocks McCrabface is back for more in 'The Predator.'

Whatever else you can say about his work, The Predator's director and co-writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, et al) really enjoys bandying words. The script for The Predator (co-written with Monster Squad's Fred Dekker) does approach the rampage of a crab-faced superalien from the Howard Hawks' point of view. That is, make sure the women are as soldierly as the men, and try to make it a comedy whenever possible.

But the problem is that it isn't always possible to go comic, and Black tries it anyway—as in a stumbling running gag about how the big beast with its mottled skin, natty dreads and sideways fangs shouldn't even be called a predator per se when he's really more of a trophy hunter.

Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (the Mel Gibson-esque Boyd Holbrook) is on duty in Mexico. While trying to take a shot at a drug cartel chief, Quinn sees something his government doesn't want him to see. To ensure that he's not dismissed as a nut, Quinn steals the helmet and one of the greaves of the murderous alien giant and mails them home. Unfortunately, the artifacts are intercepted by Quinn's bullied son Rory (Jacob Tremblay, of Room), a chess-thlete genius on the Autism spectrum.

Soon the government, under the direction of a smirking bureaucrat (Sterling K. Brown) is raiding the place. Xenobiologist Casey (Olivia Munn, game enough and good with a gun) is called in to look at a captured creature, which is how she encounters Quinn. By then, the soldier is riding the Dirty (half) Dozen short bus with various traumatized ex-soldiers on their way to the stockade—they include Keegan-Michael Key as the jester of the bunch.

The pace bops along, particularly during the siege of a football field with alien devil dogs and a fleet of stolen vehicles, and in the final fight in the coastal woods somewhere in British Columbia. The dim Canadian light makes you miss that feverish jungle in the first Predator.

The Predator is a gory chiffon—there's nothing as solid here as Arnold Schwarzenegger looking into that nightmare face and declaring, unimprovably, "You are one ugly motherfucker."

Black lingers over scenes of Rory setting up toppled chess boards and playing with his computers, and you have to wonder why he even bothers when his real fun is taking a movie to Crazytown. (Rory patriotically tells the postal carrier about his dad, the soldier: "He kills people so you can be a mailman.")

No one would call Black particularly restrained in his dialogue, but there are times when you feel like he never gets quite free enough—that there's something about three acts, character arcs and plot points that chains him.

The Predator
R; 107 Mins.

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