The Predator

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday September 12, 2018

'The Predator'
'The Predator'  (Source:Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

A team of military men goes up against the extraterrestrial equivalent of a game hunter in this concoction from writer-director Shane Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker. If the premise sounds familiar that's because you've seen it in various incarnations on the big screen since Arnold Schwarzenegger's fun and rambunctious 1987 action flick "Predator." Now the beastie is back, and he's (literally) bigger and badder than ever - not unlike the film' title, which fills out and bulks up the original film's title by adding the definite article. Meet "The Predator."

As before, the Predator meets with American military in the jungles South of the border. An Army sniper unit headed by Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) are on the verge of taking out some drug cartel villains and freeing a few hostages when an alien spaceship suddenly zooms into the picture, crashes nearby, and commences to burn. Investigating the wreckage, McKenna discovers a couple pieces of alien armor; moments later he and his team discover the alien itself, which turns out to be bad news for McKenna's unit.

When McKenna turns out to be the only survivor of the alien's attacks, he surmises - correctly - that the powers that be will want to shut him up and pin blame on him for the deaths of his men. Thinking he'll use the alien weaponry as evidence to back up his claims, McKenna ships them back to the States. But things don't go according to plan: McKenna ends up on a bus with a passel of troubled fellow service members, while the package - and the alien hardware it contains - ends up with his autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) in the basement of the family home.

The alien, meantime, ends up in a government lab under the scrutiny of government scientists (led by Jake Busey, no less), as well as one civilian expert in evolutionary biology. Her name is Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn); as it turns out she has just as much talent as an action hero as she does a scientist. No sooner has she survived the alien's gore-drenched escape from the lab than she falls in with McKenna and his makeshift crew.

And just in time, too; it turns out that the captured alien has brought something to Earth - something that the authorities back on his home planet want back. To get it, they dispatch an 11-foot-tall enhanced Predator: A super-baddie who will stop at nothing to foil the plans of his criminal fellow countryman. Oh, and collect a fresh human trophy while he's at it, since it turns out that in order to manufacture 11-foot-tall deluxe Predators, you need some human DNA. But will the big bad guy want McKenna? Or would he prefer Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), the head of a corps of super-black-ops agents who have known all about the Predators for decades and been waiting for their return to Earth?

"The Predator" has some major ambitions for expanding the film franchise - too many ambitions, actually, and that works against the movie in the end. There are some intriguing developments - Predator-on-Predator smackdowns that mirror human military factions hunting each other, for instance, not to mention the reliable tropes of genetic engineering and the ecological degradation of the Earth, which plays a tangential role - but there are also huge plot holes and lazy story choices that undermine the project as a whole.

There's also the problem of "The Predator" trying too hard to be too many things all at once. It's sci-fi action; it's lowbrow comedy; it's a family drama; it's an empowerment film for young women interested in the earthly (and, who knows, unearthly) applications of STEM skills.

Mostly, this is an ensemble piece stuffed with cartoonish characters that are given just a little depth; the busload of asylum inmates McKenna recruits include the homicidal (or is it suicidal?) Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), a Bible freak End Times fanatic called Nettles (Agusto Aguilera), and a devoted pair of frenemies, one of whom, Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) deals with the guilt of accidentally killing his own men while the other, Baxley (Thomas Jane), struggles with Tourette's. (McKenna's wife, played by Yvonne Strahovski, has a few scenes but they are washed away in the tumult of noise and juvenile humor the film unleashes.)

But, wait, there's more... or so the producers seem to hope. The film sets up rivalries and long-game plot points that are clearly meant to carry over into new sequels. The whole package feels so haphazard and stapled together you can't help but cheer for the Predator, who, assisted by some decent CGI effects, smashes everything his wake: Skulls, cars, and this movie's inexpertly assembled collage of story beats. It doesn't help that Boyd, in the role of McKenna, grows so tiresome: He comes across as a less talented, and much less cool, version of Robert Downey, Jr. in the body of a mass-produced matinee idol patterned along Joel Kinnaman lines.

At least the movie's ridiculous and incomprehensible leaps in action and logic keep things movie at a brisk clip. You won't make much sense of this hash, but then again you won't find yourself glancing at your watch.


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.