Review: Shane Black Comedy Characterizes 'The Predator'

This review was originally published for UW Film Club and has since been republished here with the author’s permission.

With five films and 31 years under its belt, the Predator series is not only contains one of the most prolific movie monsters in cinema, but also a character that only seems to have been pulled off once. From Predator 2 to AvP to Predators, the series has yet to have another entry in the franchise as good as the first, but it’s 2018 and Shane Black is returning to the franchise he once acted in to take a crack at the infamous Predator. His efforts are not perfect, but the result is a humorous outing that embraces the pulp action from the 80s that the series is built on and includes a narrative that is as equally pulpy. 

While on a special ops mission, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) witnesses a space ship crash land. There he finds Predator gear that he subsequently takes and sends home to prevent the government from laying claim to it. Having witnessed the crash, Quinn is detained and sent to looney bin where he meets Group 2, a five man team of former military operatives who are now on a mission to retrieve the alien gear all while the actual Predator, government, and a unknown third party try to get it first. 

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In all of the franchise’s history, The Predator most closely aligns itself with Predator 2. It has a late 80s/ early 90s feel to it where action melds with a slightly bonkers premise. The narrative is definitely hitting baseline believability, always straddling the line of absurd and rational but walking the fence between the two precariously. While there are moments where that narrative can illicit scoff-inducing reactions, the film always manages to pull you back and remind you that this is supposed to be taken lightly. 

The film is an action comedy through and through, but it is the degree to which comedy overtakes the action that is surprising. Shane Black’s sharp witted humor that we’ve seen in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys is all over this film. The repertoire between Group 2 is evoking the dude-bro military men from Predator, but this time with more banter and disorderly conduct. The result is action that is less serious than prior installments, but because it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, it works. Black’s humor pointedly characterizes the film, and anything less would have made the somewhat absurd plot look out of place. 

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What is out of place is the barebones emotional elements between Quinn and his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay). Rory is a bullied kid on the autism spectrum and believes his dad isn’t proud of him because he always out doing military missions instead of being at home with his family. The motivations in the film lie in Quinn coming home to rescue and protect his son from the alien, but when it comes time to have any meaningful resolve, it’s clear that the film has other concerns it wants to focus on. Not to say action comedies need to have a strong emotional component, but the films that can execute on these aspects tend to be the better ones.

The Predator is not the serious action film some had hoped, but it is a stupid fun time. Whether it be the late 80s feel of a zany action film or Shane Black’s trademark humor, the overall package holds itself together long enough to just cross the finish line intact, even if the ending may go overboard. Come for the Predator, stay for the jokes and decent action.