‘Predator’ (1987) is one of the most man-up movies ever committed to film. Directed by John McTiernan of ‘Die Hard’ fame, and starring a who’s who of eighties tough guys, led by an at-the-height-of-his-powers Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was 107 minutes straight of saying “Fuck yeah!” Cool moments piled up in rapid succession. Arnold and Carl Weathers’ mid-air arm wrestle/high five. The Long Tall Sally scored red-tinted helicopter ride to the jungle. The ‘rescue mission’ and ensuing fight against the guerillas. The state the Predator victims’ bodies are found in. Mac dry-shaving. Everything about Jesse “The Body” Ventura, from his giant gattling gun, to his dialogue – golden nuggets of wisdom like “Bunch of slack jawed faggots around here. This stuff will make you a goddamned sexual tyrannosaurus like me” and “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Even behind the scenes, this was a rough and tumble affair. The Native American guy that played every villain and bad-ass of his ethnicity that decade, (aka the first Danny Trejo) was apparently such a menace that the studio only allowed him on set if accompanied by security to “protect the well-beings of the cast and crew.” Also, Van Damme was originally the man behind the mask/make-up of the Predator itself. He got increasingly whiny and irritated by how hot the suit was, and the fact that his face wouldn’t be seen in the film. Then he (allegedly) injured a stuntman in a fight scene on purpose. He was fired, and replaced with someone much taller and more imposing. Speaking of, there hadn’t been a creature this wholly original since ‘Alien.’ The semi-invisible cloaking device was inspired, especially against the jungle backdrop. The triangle laser sight. The weird dreads. The creep-o mouth-clawed face behind the foreboding helmet. Basically, in the menagerie of movie monsters, ‘Predator’ was a goddamned sexual tyrannosaurus.
‘Predator 2’ (1990) had a loooong shadow to step out of. Most people don’t think it succeeded. For me, it was a guilty pleasure. It had
Rae Dawn Chong Maria Conchita Alonso. I don’t know why I said that like it’s a selling point. Ummm…Oooh! I know! Danny Glover was in it, still all “I’m too old for this shit.” But then again, he was better using that same schtick in the ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies (directed by Shane Black, who starred in the first ‘Predator’ to keep an eye on the director for the studio) alongside Hitler II…I mean Mel Gibson…Okay. Let’s start over. How about the alien…excuse me, ‘Alien’ skull on the Predator ship? This implication that these two creatures existed in the same universe, and battled each other, led to multiple comic book mini-series that were pretty damn sweet, and years later, a whole new direction for the series in the form of ‘Alien vs. Predator.’ Oh. I forgot. Those movies all sucked leper shit and almost sunk the franchises. Okey dokey. Never mind then. Well, the one thing about ‘Predator 2’ you can’t take away from me is that large amounts of the samples used on Ice Cube’s excellent ‘The Predator’ are from this movie. Out of context, at least, they sound cool as hell. I love that album. Oh snap! I just remembered my original point! Nick Nolte Gary Busey’s in it! That weird old fucker rules! ‘Predator 2,’ you’re A-OK in my book!
We’ll just go ahead and skip the whole ‘Alien vs. Predator’ debacle I mentioned above and jump straight to…
‘Predators’ (2010) Exactly what I wanted it to be – a B-Movie, Robert Rodriguez style. Sure, it’s directed by someone else, but you can feel Rodriguez’s fingerprints all over this. See, what keeps B-Movies from being shitty versions of A-List blockbusters is taking everything as far as you can over the line and not pulling punches where they would. The violence has to be brutal. If you’ve seen ‘Sin City,’ ‘Desperado’ or (especially) ‘Planet Terror,’ you know this is not a concern for Robert. And ‘Predators’ does not disappoint in that respect. The apex of the violence involves a kill that borrows from a famous Mortal Kombat fatality. (I won’t spoil which one here.)
The film wastes no time, starting with Adrien Brody’s character in freefall, knowing as much about his current predicament as we do, and it doesn’t let up. Placing us back in the jungle where Predators belong, and bringing back the ‘rag-tag group of bad-asses’ element that hasn’t really been there since ’87, were two huge steps in the right direction. The homages to the first film are many, including another dude with a gattling gun (although he’s no Ventura), the clever usage of mud, the one guy that’s ’spiritual’ sensing/seeing the creature first, and the creature mimicking voices to lure the protagonists into traps. These moments all avoid being too cute (a word I never thought I’d employ while discussing these “ugly motherfuckers”) by making sense within the context of the story. The creatures are great. This movie introduces a second race/class of Predator, which is an interesting, if not fully fleshed out, concept. While it’s full of cool visuals, it’s unfortunate that the most memorable one was the shot of Adrien Brody covered in Predator laser sights. Unfortunate because it exists only in the trailers, having been cut from the final film.
The acting was adequate at worst and good at best, probably due to the involvement of Brody and the always perfectly sarcastic Topher Grace. Also enjoyable was Walton “Whattafuckingname!”Goggins, from the excellent TV show ‘Justified.‘ The absolutely, over the top, bat-shit crazy award goes to Laurence Fishburne, attempting to channel some of what he remembers of Marlon Brando from their ‘Apocalypse Now’ days. Oh and Danny Trejo’s in it. But you knew that. I didn’t even know he was in it, and I knew he was in it. He’s in every movie that requires an intimidating and/or ruthless Mexican.
Hey, I’m not taking out an Oscar ad or anything, but if you love the first ‘Predator’ like I do, you’ll probably agree that this is the truest sequel it’s gotten yet. I’ll leave you with this final visual: Predator + Yakuza = samurai-style blade fight in wheat field. If that doesn’t make you want to run out and see this shit, I don’t even know you anymore.