Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Sterling K. Brown, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Alfie Allen, Jake Busey and Thomas Jane
Plot: A ex-Marine (Holbrook) ends up taking on a Predator, when it begins tracking down his autistic son (Tremblay).
Shane Black is the cinematic equivalent of CPR. The Predator franchise is the kind of series that we really want to do well, but it just hasn’t. With an outstanding original to its name and a passable sequel, the other appearances from the Predator just weren’t cutting it. It is such a solid idea that producers have been trying to pass it on to any director that will take it, but, quite frankly, there aren’t too many directions to take it. Cross-over with the Alien franchise? Risky territory. Play with the canon? The fans revolt. Stick to the original Arnie caper? What was the point in even making the movie? Eventually Shane Black picked up the role and actually committed to making the next Predator instalment. The end result is pure popcorn cinema. The Shane Black traits are all there – wise-cracking tough guys saunter in, wreak havoc and suffer bloody, bloody consequences. The story moves so fast that Black doesn’t do much more than throw a few archetypes into the mix (haunted ex-soldiers, idealistic female scientists, mysterious government agents), and adds a few additional details to partially flesh them out (Thomas Jane almost steals the show with his tiny yet funny take on his marine character). However, Black makes sure the story moves so swiftly that the thin roles don’t drag the script down with it, plastering over the rougher parts with the odd gag and diving headfirst into the action. Black manages the action with ease, having some nail-biting fight sequences, playing around with Predator technology and delivering the kind of explosive set-pieces that we expect from a Predator film made in 2018. For those wanting to sink into a thrill-ride, Shane Black’s the Predator is just what you want.
That being said, it still feels like Shane Black is keeping the engine running, rather than breaking any barriers. Black has a talent for being the class joker in the film world. He makes enough jokes that are genuinely amusing (“You are one beautiful motherfucker!” Munn quips at the start of the film), that you only half realise that the film is going through the motions rather than wowing anyone. It is definitely one way of solving the ‘Predator films are tricky to make’ problem, with some genuinely charismatic actors in the parts (Holbrook plays a role he has done before, but adds an additional charm to proceedings), opening up an avenue to become attached to the goings-on. However, for every good moment, there is a clunker. Jacob Tremblay has Asperger’s so he has an unique ability to understand alien technology. A wild Alien hound gets shot in the head and becomes placid. It is the kind of movie that may garner some fans early on, but time will not be kind to this entry. However, it definitely ticks that solid sequel box. Predator 2 probably still earns the top Predator follow-up, due to its way of incorporating the concept of the original but shaking the backdrop enough to feel fresh, however Black’s new entry is miles above Rodriguez tepid Predators. Essentially, take what you will from this latest movie. In all honesty, it’s nice just to have that ugly alien mug back.
Final Verdict: Shane Black may not do much with his entry, but he keeps everything fun and action-packed, which is probably what we needed right now.