Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Predator (1987) Review

One Awesome Motherf**ker
Some movies set out not to only entertain, but to put some sort of message within the confines of the story. The Alien series, which I just finished writing about, has many little details within each individual entry and the series as a whole that give the proceedings some subdued meaning. Aliens, for example, has a recurring theme of motherhood and how both Ripley and the queen are two mothers protecting their young ones. With the addition of Alien 3, Ripley's adventures become not just about a woman having to defend herself against a never ending threat, but are also symbolic of the evolution of a woman's life. Alien is about her "birth", going through the trials of life and changing as a person. As I noted before, Aliens is about being a mother. Alien 3 brings this full circle by having Ripley face the harsh reality of life and cope with her impending doom. But Predator, on the other hand, doesn't have any of this subtext. It merely wants to entertain us, and it does so with gusto.

A mysterious ship quietly flies through the emptiness of space towards Earth. When it arrives, the ship launches an escape pod down and soars away. Cut to Earth where we meet Dutch and his squad, where they get an assignment from Dutch’s CIA friend Dillon. Dillon wants the men to go into the jungle (not specified, although it looks like either Mexico or South America) and rescue a cabin administer that they believe was captured by a group of rebel guerilla soldiers. After eliminating the guerilla force and taking a woman hostage, Dutch learns the true nature of the operation and begins to feel like his trust in Dillon is misplaced. As the squad goes back into the jungle towards their pickup point, they soon become aware that they aren't the only ones out there and that they are being followed by a hidden menace.


Like Aliens, which so inspired this endeavor, Predator is a horror/action hybrid that mixes suspenseful stalking with intense bursts of violence. And although the action does noticeably overshadow the horror, this isn't much of a problem. The assault on the guerilla base feels as if it could have been lifted from Schwarzenegger's previous movie Commando, with lots of explosions and endless one-liners. The rest of the movie also has this same kind of memorable dialogue and classic lines. And that's fine, because it's quite obvious that the filmmakers set out to simply give us a fun thrill ride. A pre-Die Hard John McTiernan serves as the director and he gives the action the same incredible intensity and punch that would define his later films. McTiernan also is smart in the encounters with the predator by building up suspense and tension before finally letting loose. These encounters aren't particularly scary, but their suspense and intensity make up for that.

If you have ever found a movie with a more muscle pumped and testosterone fueled cast, then please tell me what it is cause I doubt Predator can be beaten in this regard. You've got Arnold Schwarzenegger riding high at the peak of his popularity as Dutch, Carl Weathers playing the deceiving Dillon, Jesse Ventura as minigun-toting Blaine, Shane Black as Hawkins who makes jokes about his girlfriends p***y, Sonny Landham as the cautious Billy, Bill Duke as Mac, and a few more. That's two governors, Apollo Creed, the writer of Lethal Weapon, a porn star, and the big guy who fights Arnold in the motel in Commando. Their respective characterizations aren’t particularly deep, but each one of them has their own personality that makes them stand out. It makes me wish all other average military movies did the same thing. Arnold makes Dutch quite a badass too, such as when he sees the predator unmasked for the first time. Instead of being horrified at the sight like most heroes, he merely brushes aside the beast with a quick one-liner.


But if you came to see Predator just for its action and cast, then your head is in the wrong place cause the predator himself is the real deal. What adds to its mystique is that we are never given a concrete reason why he has come to Earth to kill these guys. It’s just a hunter, plain and simple. What makes the predator even more interesting is that it seems to follow a system of morals. He only kills for sport, so innocent or unarmed people are ruled out in his target list. For most of the film it’s like the shark in Jaws, remaining hidden in invisibility for a majority of the time before popping out for the kill. When it finally takes off its mask for the climatic one on one, the design is very distinct and original, with some form of dreadlocks, hardened black whiskers, and the clawed mandibles around its mouth.

I know it sounds like I’m gushing over how much I like the movie, but the fact is I really really like Predator. It's got everything I want in an action movie, and then some.

Initial Rating: 3.5/4    Revised Rating: 4/4

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