Since playing Hawkins in 1987’s Predator, Shane Black has gone on to build quite the impressive reputation as a screenwriter and director. For example, his writing credits include the likes of Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3 – the latter two also featuring him on directing duties. Here, Black goes full circle and returns to tackle the latest outing for the Predator franchise, but is this a long-delayed return to form for the series or simply yet another example of why sometimes it's best to leave old favourites behind?
In terms of plot, an alien ship ends up causing all kinds of carnage in a jungle locale – sounds familiar, right? – and Boyd Holbrook’s McKenna is the last man standing, able to make it out alive and even able to send some swanky Predator souvenirs back home. Of course, McKenna is quickly being grilled by the powers-that-be over just what it was that he saw, while in the meantime a Predator ship is headed to Earth and seemingly on the hunt for McKenna’s newfound gear. The bigger problem here, mind, is that this gear is residing in McKenna’s estranged wife's basement, where his young son (the ever-impressive Jacob Tremblay) has accidentally begun communicating with the alien mob. Quicker than you can say “get to da choppa!”, McKenna has ended up assembling a ragtag team of former soldiers and Olivia Munn’s science whiz as they look to save his son from this most savage of alien menaces. And yes, much like has been bafflingly shown in the film’s trailers, there is indeed an even bigger Predator in on the hunt, too. Not to mention Predator-style dogs. Dun, dun, dun, dun!
Sure, we’d love to try and play this up and to at least string you along with some sort of hope that The Predator could well actually be a film that has rejuvenated a much-loved property, but we’ve got to be blunt: it isn’t.
While big and dumb can work in the right context and handled in the correct way, sometimes big and dumb is simply, well, big and dumb. And sadly, The Predator struggles for any real redeeming qualities bar the fact that it sometimes looks impressive. Dig under the surface, however – or get slapped in the face with one of its plot points or plentiful gags – and you’ll find that the sheen may be decent, but the substance is sorely lacking in anything resembling a half-way decent plot, with truly awful dialogue, some utterly minimal character development, cuss words for the sake of cuss words (and trust us, we swear like sailors!), and performances that range from painful to just about bearable.
Is The Predator a new low for the series? That’s debatable. But the fact that that’s even a thought – y’know, considering how awful Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is – should tell you all you need to know about Black’s movie. This is a film that nobody particularly asked for, and then just when you think that maybe – just maybe – this might be an effort that could salvage the franchise, the end result is a dull story with paint-by-number characters that does relatively little to excite (particularly after it decided to blow its biggest money shot – the giant Predator – in its trailers).
Shane Black is better than this. Fred Dekker is better than this. But if it’s a case of “what have you done for me lately?”, then we sadly have to judge the pair on this most recent offering; an offering that is a let down in so many ways. And those loose plans of this being the launching point for a new trilogy of Predator pictures? If we’re being brutally honest, The Predator could – and some would argue should – be enough to kill off this genre mainstay once and for all.
THE PREDATOR / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SHANE BLACK / SCREENPLAY: SHANE BLACK, FRED DEKKER / STARRING: BOYD HOLBROOK, OLIVIA MUNN, TREVANTE RHODES, JACOB TREMBLAY, STERLING K. BROWN, KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY, THOMAS JANE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10