Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Predator review

Here's the thing about director-writer Shane Black. He likes to deconstruct genres with a subversive glee. Take a look at his films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and The Nice Guys. These two movies were part comic takes on the private detective- film noir genre. It worked well for those two films because he respected the genre and the it could withstand the comedy without the films becoming camp. In 2013, Black co-wrote and directed the blasphemous Iron Man 3 and by blasphemous, I mean that Black took a serious comic book villain, The Mandarin, and turned him into a clown. He also showed no respect for the concept of a man donning the Iron Man suit and becoming a hero. The result of that movie was regrettable for the fans of Iron Man. Now, Black takes on the fourth movie in the Predator series, if you exclude the Alien vs Predator series, in The Predator. Quick trivia, Black acted in the first Predator (1987) film. The question is will Black's rebellious style work here?

The Predator opens up like the first one with an alien ship containing a Predator approaching earth. This time the ship crashes. It just happens to crash nearby a hostage rescue. On this mission, Army Ranger Quinn Mckenna (Boyd Holbrook) and his soldiers stumble on the ship. Quinn takes some of the armor off the alien. After fighting with the Predator, he wanders the countryside. Quinn later mails the armor to his young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) who I think is about ten. Quinn gets captured by government agents led by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and is transported to a secret base where a captured Predator is being studied. Also arriving is Dr. Casey Bracket. (Olivia Munn) You can guess what happens. Said Predator escapes.

I can't complain about the cast. They're solid. A quick nod to Emmy Award winner Sterling K. Brown who's known for his sensitive Randall Pearson in the TV series This is Us. Here he's ruthless, ends justify the means government official. And before I forget, Quinn recruits a squad of misfits led by Trevante Rhodes, and Obama's Anger Translator, Keegan- Michael Peele. Okay, Peele is doesn't play Obama's Anger Translator but he teams up with an unrecognizable Thomas Jane or was that Aaron Eckhart? Sorry it's Jane, confused by male white actors with long faces and strong chins. Anyway, the misfits are the comic relief.

The Predator has many problems, the least of which is Black's subversive take on the franchise. First, is the screenplay by Fred Dekker and Black. I'll praise it for some good ideas as far as why the Predators are coming to earth. But it has logical flaws. I mean why would Quinn send Predator armor to his kid? I guess it's a contrivance to set up other plot threads. Then, there are way too many jokes for this type of thriller and too often they don't work.

Second, Black substitutes making a taut action movie with night scenes which are too dark, and fast cutting. The result? Confusion. And his subversive tone drowns out any drama. Is he making a sarcastic action comedy or a tale of life and death struggle?

The Predator is a mess of a movie. It can't decide whether it wants to be a thoughtful science fiction action picture or a sarcastic comedy on the genre. It fails both. The grade is C Plus.

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