“Can I interest you in getting the fuck out of here?”
Deliberately working within the confines of a sequel and a reboot, Shane Black meticulously works to offer up a film that will bring in new fans while still adhering to the formula in The Predator, the latest entry into the decades-old franchise.
Though the film starts out much like a Star Wars sequel from 2001, it quickly finds its footing, introducing us to our lead protagonist, military sniper specialist Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), as he has a run in with the alien-like creatures. After defeating them he takes a few souvenirs as proof, setting off a string of events that ultimately put his entire family in danger.
After the initial encounter, Black begins to introduce his players, offering up brief introductions for each through their placement on the “looney bus.” The characters, at their core, are shallow in depth and complexity - but let’s be real, we aren’t watching The Predator for the emotional connection.
Olivia Munn, the lone female presence within the otherwise male-dominated film, more than holds her own as an evolutionary scientist and biologist Casey Bracket. A female heroine without the hard outer shell, she dominates her scenes with intelligence and wit. While her ability to sling a gun is a bit unexpected (though a pleasant surprise), it is impossible to ignore her use in the motherly sense concerning Jacob Tremblay’s Rory.
Speaking of Rory, the pint-sized genius packs a mean punch. The kid sees his stock rise sharply throughout the film, paving the way for him to become the new central figure during the latter half of the story. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Tremblay helps to carry the film during its otherwise lifeless moments. Granted he doesn’t get in on the action; he does successfully avoid the pitfalls that most child actors face when interacting with adults: whiny, unawareness, needy. Moreover, he even comes to the table with a potty mouth, letting out a beautifully timed “fuck” that proves equal parts shocking and hilarious.
For all the time I’ve spent on the cast, The Predator is painfully simple in both content and characterization. The plot is relatively straightforward, the climax a bit over-the-top, and you can quickly pick out the survivors within the first fifteen minutes. You have little connection to any of the principle players, always opting for a kill over a close call, regardless of the effect it would have on the story.
Fortunately, absolutely none of this bothers me. Where Black works his magic is in the offbeat one-liners, the high octane energy, and the shock and awe effect of the kill. Without any of that, The Predator would be unwatchable - even for franchise fans. Thankfully, all intact, the film proves to be precisely what one would expect. It isn’t great; however with an understanding of its tongue-in-cheek approach, its fun.
*This review was originally featured in our 2018 Toronto International Film Festival coverage.