Jungle
The Predator

Shane Black has always done a great job with his characters. From Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Iron Man 3 to The Nice Guys, the quick and witty banter between them is part of his allure as a director. It's something I've always enjoyed when watching his films, but this time it feels different. The Predator is very much a Shane Black film, and that's both a good and bad thing.

Special Ops sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is in the middle of a mission when an alien spacecraft crashes in the jungle. From the wreckage emerges the Predator, who easily takes out McKenna's team leaving him as the only survivor and witness. He is detained by government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and classified as insane in an effort to cover up what he saw. While being transferred he meets a group of fellow soldiers who have all been deemed unfit for service in one way or another. Named the Loonies, their bus route is interrupted when the Predator reemerges to finish the job he came to Earth for. What that mission is however, remains a mystery to McKenna and his new team.

As much as I enjoy Shane Black's style of dialogue, it simply doesn't fit within the confines of the Predator franchise. The Predator is a ruthless killing machine and hunter, not some comedian looking for a laugh. At one point during the film he brutally slaughters a group of soldiers in the back of a truck and when the driver asks if everything is okay the Predator sticks a severed arm through the window giving a thumbs up. It got a chuckle out of me but I couldn't help but feel disappointed to see the Predator being reduced to such a simple gag. There are definitely moments of gruesome badassery from The Predator, and it clearly earns its R-rating, but not everything needs to end with a joke.

That being said, Black does do a good job with McKenna and his team of misfits. It takes a beat or two for them to get going, but once they do it's an entertaining ride. Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, and Olivia Munn all contribute to the humor in one way or another in typical Shane Black style. It's strange that in a film titled The Predator, the most enjoyable aspect of it does not involve the titular character.

The Predator does not feel like a Predator film to me, but rather some kind of hybrid that half-heartedly pays tribute to its origins. Throughout the film there are moments where the score is pulled directly from the original, and I couldn't help but think back to it and wish that was the type of film we were getting. I would have liked to have seen more of a focus on the action and less on the humor.

For better and for worse, The Predator is your typical Shane Black film. He makes it work with the human characters, but when it comes to the Predator itself that's when things start to unravel. It's far from being the worst Predator movie, but still doesn't come close to the original.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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