Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Predator 2 (1990) Review

Predator 2
A Different Kind of Jungle

Here I am, reviewing Predator 2, the lone wolf. It was the only movie in both the Predator and Alien franchises combined that I had not seen in its entirety. I had seen all four Alien movies multiple times and the AVP movies a few times (hoping that they would improve on repeat viewings, with no success), but I had only caught snippets of Predator 2. I knew that it took place in the city, there was no Arnold, the predator had a few new toys, and that the ending laid the foundation for the AVP series. Although I didn't expect much, the premise of letting the predator loose in a city was a pretty intriguing idea that had so many possibilities. But alas, when you hit the top, the only place you can go is down. In this case, way down.

Plot Synopsis: It is Los Angeles, 1997, and the city is falling apart because of the sweltering heat and the overpowering force of the gang wars. The police are outgunned and at the end of their wits, but when some of the gangsters start dying in mysterious ways, Lt. Mike Harrigan thinks that there's a third party interfering with the conflict. Harrigan is assigned a new partner after his previous one was killed in the form of Jerry Lambert, and the two begin investigating into the matter despite orders to stay away. When Peter Keyes, a government agent, consistently appears at all of these strange incidents to clean up the evidence, Harrigan believes that he knows exactly what is causing these elaborate murders. But the "what" turns out to be the predator, and he is going to give everyone involved one hell of a beating.


The first Predator wasn’t high art, but it did give birth to classic movie monster and it was simply an entertaining thrill ride. Predator 2 aims for the same kind of thrills as the original but botches them in the process. The action, for example, feels very derivative and overdone at times. A potentially intense attack on the subway by the predator is butchered by strobe effect lighting, rendering the action almost indecipherable. But the worst is when Keyes' men attempt to capture the predator in a meat factory, and the scene is beat for beat like the first ambush in Aliens with the men using shoulder cameras and Harrigan watching from a hidden room. Replace Harrigan with Ripley and the predator with the aliens, and you couldn’t tell the difference. The movie is also much more special effects driven than the original, and the effects haven’t aged as well. The blue screen work is distractingly obvious, and it happens too often to be overlooked and forgiven.

So there’s no Arnold in this sequel? Ok, I can live with that, but how do you go from him to Danny Glover? Don’t get me wrong, I really like Glover as an actor, but he plays Harrigan as an overblown cliché. He’s the rebel cop who defies orders and takes matters into his own hands, and the attempts at macho toughness get grating after a while. If you thought Bill Paxton was annoying in Aliens, then you’ll find him unbearable to watch as Lambert. He’s pretty much playing Hudson x10, without any kind of acting restraint. The same goes for Busey, who absolutely chews through the scenery as Keyes in a wild eyed fury. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty much saying that director Stephan Hopkins focused on the action and effects, and then left the actors unfocused.


At least they got the predator right though, correct? Wrong. The predator is strangely lacking in overall menace and threat. Part of this is contributed to the altering of his battle cry from a powerful roar to a piercing shriek, but the biggest sin is turning him into a one-liner-spouting cartoon that ruins the mystery and ominous presence of the character. But all is not bad, however. The new weapons that the predator uses are pretty cool and interesting, such as a net gun that constricts its victim and a giant spear. My favorite though, is a boomerang like disc that can slice victims in half. It’s fun to see these get used, and even more fun to watch their gory aftermaths. I’m sure most of you know this already, but in the predator’s ship near the end you can see the skull of the alien from the Alien movies, tantalizing us with many ideas and thoughts as to what it means.

Putting the predator in Los Angeles is a neat idea, and is used fairly well as it places the predator as an intruder in an already heated conflict. And gang war, while kind of dated, is a nice subplot used to compliment the predator’s hunt. But all things considered, the movie just doesn’t come together smoothly and is best served only to die hard Predator fans.


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