By Chic DiCiccio
If someone said that Shane Black’s screenplay for “The Predator” started out as a dark comedy about a team of soldiers suffering from PTSD that then break out of prison, it would make sense. This alleged horror-science fiction mashup is nothing more than a 1990s throwback action movie loaded with one-liners … that happens to have giant, murderous space aliens running around in it.
A movie like this shouldn’t be devoid of humor, but the jumpy thrills of the original “Predator” have been abandoned for dirty jokes and chuckles at the expense of a guy with Tourette’s. Black has even taken away what made a Predator so scary in the first place (hunting for hunting’s sake) and invented a hackneyed reason for why they hunt, which involves DNA and global warming.
This isn’t to say that “The Predator” is horrible. It’s definitely a step up from any of those “Alien vs. Predator” dumpster fires. That’s mostly due to a cast more than able to fire out Black’s stand-up comedy routines, but most of them aren’t quite up to par when it comes to the action.
Everything gets started when a Predator spaceship crashes in Mexico and is seen by an Army Ranger sniper, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). He’s quickly brought in by an unnamed secret U.S. agency in order to eliminate any witnesses of alien life, but not before he sends some alien tech to his autistic son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay).
While Rory figures out the tech (eyes fully rolling), Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), a science professor, is brought in by super-secret agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) to peep some Predator DNA. Casey spews out a bunch of science sounding stuff that sounds like it was made up by a 12-year-old boy and marvels over a sedated Predator … until it wakes up and mutilates all the science nerds.
Naturally, Rory’s discoveries put him the Predator’s crosshairs, and Quinn enlists a busload of lunatics to help him protect his son.
Their de facto leader is Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), a chain smoking, suicidal former officer. He’s joined by wise cracking Coyle (Keegan Michael Key), Bible beating Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), pilot Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Baxley (Thomas Jane), whose suffering from Tourette’s is found to be hilarious by his buddies.
Black’s direction keeps the action coming at a frenetic pace, probably in an effort to distract from the lack of a coherent plot. Unfortunately, there are moments when the action is so all over the map that it’s impossible to follow. In fact, one character meets their demise so quickly that it’s easily overlooked until that person just stops appearing on screen.
“The Predator” is the type of flick that needs a charismatic lead actor and Holbrook doesn’t quite fit the bill. He excels at snark, but his charming southern drawl doesn’t make up for the fact that he physically doesn’t look like he could go toe-to-toe with a 10-foot alien. He’s still better here than Olivia Munn, who is dreadfully poor.
If someone is having a blast, it’s Sterling K. Brown. He’s either reveling in abandoning his nice guy persona or excited to be seen in something that doesn’t require him to cry every five minutes.
He’s so good at being a bad guy that it could potentially rock the “This Is Us” fan base.
There is one word to describe Shane Black’s “The Predator” — disappointing. There’s no horror, no scares and no suspense.
Black has inserted far too much of his personal style and it overshadows the Predator brand, which — after 31 years — may be a good thing.