Movie Review: The Predator

The hunting alien series gets a darkly comedic reboot

The Predator (Predátor: Evoluce)
Directed by Shane Black
With Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown

A late entry for summer action blockbusters, The Predator sees the return on dreadlocked aliens who can turn invisible to hunt humans on Earth.

The story picks up after the events of 1990’s Predators 2, but comes before 2010’s Predators. Shane Black, who had a role in the original 1987 film Predator (without “The”), returns as director and co-wrote the script for The Predator.

Black has written action films such as Lethal Weapon and its sequel and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, among other films.

So its no surprise that The Predator is almost nonstop action punctuated by dark comedic repartee. The story has a US military sniper in a jungle in Mexico waiting for his target when a spaceship crashes. The sniper, Quinn McKenna (played by Boyd Holbrook), finds himself at odds with a secret branch of the government, which wants to eliminate all witnesses.

Circumstances force him to team up with a diverse group of military misfits including a wisecracking soldier named Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Baxley (Thomas Jane), who has Tourette syndrome, and several others to fight both the US government and the aliens.

Along the way they pick up biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), who also winds up on the run from the government agents. She keeps the film from being an all-guy affair.

An obvious inspiration for The Predator is The Dirty Dozen, a 1967 war film about a military misfit on a dangerous mission.

There is a large subplot involving McKenna’s son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who has a form of autism. The depiction is handled rather sensitively considering this is a sci-fi action film.

Shane Black’s dialogue is fairly crisp, and each of the main characters has well-defined traits. Some of the dialogue when the group first gets together is a bit too convenient, as everyone lists their particular mental challenge and how they wound up being incarcerated for it.

Keegan-Michael Key, who is also part of a comedy team with Get Out director Jordan Peele, stands out among the misfits, delivering an endless array of crude one-liners. Thomas Jane gives a more emotional performance as a suffering veteran.

Olivia Munn adds a strong female presence: a scientist who can fight when she has to. She isn’t a natural at it, which makes sense because she has no military training, but she manages to hold her own despite one comedic bit where she shoots herself in the foot with a tranquilizer dart.

The other main female character, who has just a handful of scenes, is McKenna’s wife, Emily (Yvonne Strahovski). She also proves resourceful, but her role as the estranged wife of a soldier with a broken marriage is a bit stereotypical, though.

There are some drawbacks. Boyd Holbrook is a bit bland in the main role. His character is fleshed out a bit with a few touching scenes with his autistic son, but overall he lacks any compelling charisma. The other members of his misfit group tend to overshadow him.

Shane Black sets some key action on Halloween, which is a rather obvious ploy that has been used way too often.

The film is the fourth entry in the franchise, not counting two crossover films with the Alien series. The action is adequate, but the film at times seems to just be going through the motions of the genre conventions of the witness on the run from the evil government agents who ride around in black helicopters.

The action is almost nonstop from start to end but offers nothing that audiences haven’t really seen before. That makes The Predator something of interest mostly for fans of the genre.

The film is yet another Hollywood reboot of a series, and a sequel is clearly set up for what is supposed to be a new trilogy with Shane Black at the helm.

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