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"THE PREDATOR"
(2018) (Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A military sniper, a biologist, and group of mentally unstable military men must contend with extraterrestrial predators that have arrived for the thrill of the hunt and more.
PLOT:
Quinn McKenna (BOYD HOLBROOK) is an Army Ranger sniper who witnesses an alien spacecraft crash and its extraterrestrial pilot then kill two of his men. With no one officially believing his story -- although government figure Will Traeger (STERLING K. BROWN) clearly knows what's going on -- he's shipped off for a military psych ward along with a number of other allegedly mentally unstable soldiers.

They include Nebraska Williams (TREVANTE RHODES), Coyle (KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY), Baxley (THOMAS JANE), Lynch (ALFIE ALLEN) and Nettles (AUGUSTO AGUILERA) who likewise don't believe his story until they see the alien -- deemed a predator by those who've been studying a captured one despite it and its kind hunting for sport -- in full lethal mode.

Also present is biologist Casey Bracket (OLIVIA MUNN) who barely escapes with her life when that captured predator breaks free, and she's determined that these aliens are modifying their gene pool and are searching for Earth's most resilient warriors. Initially unaware of any of this is Quinn's estranged wife, Emily (YVONNE STRAHOVSKI), and their young and often bullied son, Rory (JACOB TREMBLAY) who likely has Asperger's Syndrome.

Having found alien technology in that initial crash site, Quinn had it secretly shipped home and Rory has figured out how some of it works. All of which means a number of figures want to get to the boy -- the predator to get that equipment back, Traeger who wants to use the kid to unlock another alien ship's secrets, and Quinn who simply wants to make sure his son stays safe.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
There have been plenty of films about extraterrestrials accidentally or purposefully arriving here on Earth. I don't know the exact percentage breakdown, but some of them have featured such characters who are nice to us ("E.T. The Extraterrestrial," "Starman," etc.) and others that are not (the "Transformers" movies, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and so on).

One of the better of the latter bunch, at least in my opinion, has always been "Predator." You know, the sci-fi action flick featuring not one but two future state governors -- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura -- and stemming from an updated and revamped retelling of the old "Most Dangerous Game" story where humans are hunted.

Except in John McTiernan's second time in the director's chair, the hunter wasn't another person, but rather a huge, bipedal and crab-faced alien who was sport hunting on Earth just for the fun of it. Featuring a great cast (beyond the future public officials there was also Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Sonny Landham among others), taut action and a great score, the film was a tight sci-fi action flick pitting man against alien.

Unfortunately, and is oft the case, it spurred sequels and even some crossover flicks in the "Alien Vs. Predator" series. And now we have another sequel that, interestingly enough, has been directed and co-written (along with Fred Dekker) by one Shane Black who appeared in the original '87 movie and like nearly everyone in it, had his character meet his demise at the hands and weaponry of the alien hunter.

Beyond being completely unnecessary and as far as I know not exactly being clamored for (although thankfully at least it isn't a wholesale reboot of the first movie), it's not very good. The script has disparate elements seemingly jammed together in a less than convincing or entertaining fashion, the editing is pretty rough, the action is rote and recycled (if bloody and gory) and the performances and especially character types are nothing to write home about. I didn't have high hopes going in, and Black and company quickly and repeatedly dashed what little I had with me.

The fun of the original was having uber-macho men being outdone (and killed) by a bigger, more technically enhanced and presumably more intelligent apex predator from some distant planet. And then it turned into an intergalactic sort of cat and mouse thriller where the mice, so to speak, tried to hide long enough to figure out how to dispense with the persistent killer.

Here, there's a hodgepodge of characters ranging from a bullied but brilliant kid (Jacob Tremblay) with Asperger's to his military sniper father (Boyd Holbrook), a collection of military types (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera and Alfie Allen) deemed mentally unhinged by those higher up, a beautiful biologist (Olivia Munn) who's apparently had lots of weapons and tactical situation training, and a shady government type (Sterling K. Brown) whose dimensions never get past the number one.

The twist this time around is that there's apparently a good predator along with bad ones who's trying to alert the humans about what's really happening (they're not just hunting for sport, but for good genes). Yeah, that didn't make much sense to me either, but the general gist is they're after the best of the best when it comes to humans for some cross DNA mixing.

As in most of Black's works -- as the writer of features such as "Lethal Weapon" and director of the likes of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" -- there's male bonding through adversity along with plenty of quips, one-liners and such. Yes, there was some humor in the Arnie & Jessie flick, but that was just brief comic relief among the machismo. As on display here, however, much of that feels forced and crammed into the sci-fi action trappings creating a film that feels at odds with and often ends up battling itself.

So, what we're left with is yet another entry in the "Predator" franchise that offers not much more than the same old blood and guts, aliens kill people material that we've seen before and, at least in regard to the original film, done so much better. "The Predator" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed September 10, 2018 / Posted September 14, 2018


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