Shane Black's The Predator is a confounding film. The story grasps at reinvention before inevitably succumbing to its genre-typical sensibilities, resulting in an uneven film devoid of payoff and personality. Gone is Black's trademarked keenness. Gone is any illusion of quality. The Predator is missed opportunity at its most disappointing, a laughably hollow attempt to entertain that falls as heavily as the dismembered bodies the film throws at its audience.
The film moves quickly; breathlessly. A frantic, fragmented mess, the finished cut often proves difficult to follow and frustrating to endure. The titular hunters, while frightening and formidable, are given too many things to do and not enough time to do them; Black gives them a motivation beyond just sport-hunting but doesn't clear enough narrative space for this updated purpose.
The central characters, while charming, carry no narrative heft. Black gives them no reason to like or tolerate each other but expects viewers to subscribe to the notion that they will work together. One minute they're settling down in a suburban room, refusing to fight, the next they're hurrying off to help a guy they've only just met. That doesn't stretch believability - it snaps it. There are some well-handled dynamics; Boyd Holbrook and Trevante Rhodes have some serious brotherly chemistry, and the best scenes often boil down to the two of them.
The Predator isn't without its bright spots (Rhodes and Jacob Tremblay being standouts), but it definitely doesn't lean hard enough into either of its chief aspects to earn its place in The Predator pantheon. The Schwarzenegger-led original was an unabashed '80s action film (replete with all the gore and cheese we've come to expect from such fare) that subverted in unexpected ways and established itself as sci-fi worth emulating. Everything since has failed to recapture that gruesome magic, but none of them have been as brazenly bad as Black's latest outing.
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: 7 out of 10