The Predator opens up with a bang, featuring a campy alien chase and crash scene just to get nostalgic juices flowing, since everything from the not-so-perfect CGI animation to the epic late-eighties score gets you thinking about the original Predator. However, this feeling soon begins to fade, and The Predator starts to feel more like a lazy cash grab with a few bright spots. Director Shane Black delivers a ridiculous, action-packed frenzy of a film that’s designed to let the audience experience the Predator Universe one more time, and to his credit, the film is very self-aware and never tries to be more than advertised. The Predator boasts non-stop action, and is surprisingly funny, but never fully delivers an engaging story.
After an alien spacecraft crashes in a Mexican forest, American solider Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is dispatched to investigate the scene. McKenna finds some foreign gear in the wreck and makes sure to ship it home before the super-secret agents of Project Stargazer locate him. Once the government takes hold of an unlucky McKenna, they send him to rehab so no one will believe his side of the story. When McKenna meets his rehab group, known as Group 2, he soon realizes that he is not going home anytime soon. The group of cast offs are a bunch of ex-soldiers who have been committed in some form or another. Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) round out the group of dangerous misfits. Back at home, McKenna’s genius son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) discovers the package of alien gear…and accidentally activates it.
Meanwhile, at the Project Stargazer facility, leader of the operation Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) has summoned their on-call biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to assess an amazing discovery – the Predator’s DNA has been combined with that of a human’s. Unsurprisingly, chaos ensues, and the world must fight off alien predators once again.
This film constantly straddles the fine line that separates genuine humor from cringeworthy silliness. With that said, writers Fred Dekker and Shane Black made a conscious effort to make this a comedy, and in a lot of ways it works. The banter between the Group 2 soldiers elicits laughter from an audience, and even the over-the-top action sequences are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. The cringe comes from some questionable dialog and terrible acting. Jokes aside, The Predator struggles to convey a coherent, and more importantly, engaging story. At some point, there is a realization that these characters don’t really matter. No connection is ever established, and the film just keeps chugging along.
Ultimately, the true problems lie with the cast. Specifically, it seems like the majority of the actors do not fit in their roles (with the exception of a few Group 2 members). Boyd Holbrook is not convincing in his “bad-ass soldier” role, and everything else trickles around that. Olivia Munn looks lost in most of the action, although she nails the back and forth banter, and Sterling K. Brown plays the least convincing “bad guy” in recent memory. Brown’s monotone, slow, methodical portrayal derails most of the tension between “good and evil”.
The Predator is about guns, explosions, gruesome deaths and everything in between. Fans of the series will enjoy this installment, if only to see the terrifying hunters in action again. Although it is hampered by sloppy storytelling and lazy acting, the movie still holds some entertainment value. In short, The Predator is a run-of-the-mill modern action-flick and has the potential to leave fans simultaneously satisfied and disappointed.