September 26, 2018

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Back on the prowl

Invisible alien killing machine returns to Earth and Arnie is nowhere to be found

Likely, some fans of John McTiernan’s 1987 blockbuster Predator will miss the bulked-up presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in writer-director Shane Black’s sequel/reboot The Predator.

The truth is, even Arnold in his prime would not have been a good fit for this new iteration. Shane Black may have a reputation as an action writer (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout), but his true stock in trade is smart-ass repartée, especially in some of the films he has directed, including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. In those, the quips and insults fly as devastatingly as bullets. There is a reason Black’s default screen proxy is verbal Uzi Robert Downey Jr. (When Black did write for Schwarzenegger, the result — The Last Action Hero — did not go well.)

Hence, after Nimrod Antal’s failed 2010 reboot Predators, Black takes his kick at the can featuring fast, furious action but punctuated with oft-hilarious verbal wit.

The film’s hero is McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a military sniper who happens to be on an assassination mission when an errant Predator spaceship crashes into his field of fire. With the mission aborted, McKenna is savvy enough to realize his story of an alien intervention is not likely to be believed. So he sends proof, surreptitiously mailing alien headgear and a weapon to his home in the U.S.A. before allowing himself to be taken into custody. Unfortunately, the package ends up in the house of McKenna’s ex-wife (Yvonne Strahovski) and is unwrapped by McKenna’s young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), a kid on the autism scale who seems to instinctively understand the alien technology.

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Likely, some fans of John McTiernan’s 1987 blockbuster Predator will miss the bulked-up presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in writer-director Shane Black’s sequel/reboot The Predator.

MOVIE REVIEW

The Predator
Starring Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.
107 minutes
18A
★★★1/2 stars out of five

OTHER VOICES

The Predator
Starring Boyd Holbrook and Olivia Munn

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.
107 minutes
18A
★★★1/2 stars out of five

OTHER VOICES

Best of all, Black understands the geography of an action sequence, and the advantage of an R rating.

— Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

The movie’s storyline as a whole fits in really well with the rest of the series, and it does a great job of paying homage to the original Predator movie by starting out in a jungle-like setting.

— Samantha Incorvaia, Arizona Republic

From time to time its mix of foul-mouthed bro camaraderie and in-your-face violence nods in the direction of modest entertainment value, but the net effect is a whiplash-inducing muddle.

— Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

The “smart ass” Shane Black and the not “smart” ass Shane Black are equally represented here.

— Roger Moore, Movie Nation

Earth hath not anything to show more daft than The Predator.

— Nigel Andrews, Financial Times

The truth is, even Arnold in his prime would not have been a good fit for this new iteration. Shane Black may have a reputation as an action writer (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout), but his true stock in trade is smart-ass repartée, especially in some of the films he has directed, including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. In those, the quips and insults fly as devastatingly as bullets. There is a reason Black’s default screen proxy is verbal Uzi Robert Downey Jr. (When Black did write for Schwarzenegger, the result — The Last Action Hero — did not go well.)

Hence, after Nimrod Antal’s failed 2010 reboot Predators, Black takes his kick at the can featuring fast, furious action but punctuated with oft-hilarious verbal wit.

The film’s hero is McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a military sniper who happens to be on an assassination mission when an errant Predator spaceship crashes into his field of fire. With the mission aborted, McKenna is savvy enough to realize his story of an alien intervention is not likely to be believed. So he sends proof, surreptitiously mailing alien headgear and a weapon to his home in the U.S.A. before allowing himself to be taken into custody. Unfortunately, the package ends up in the house of McKenna’s ex-wife (Yvonne Strahovski) and is unwrapped by McKenna’s young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), a kid on the autism scale who seems to instinctively understand the alien technology.

It all comes to a head when McKenna, imprisoned on a military bus at a secret installation with miscellaneous "crazies," finds himself in the immediate vicinity of one captured predator, a psychopathic government investigator (Sterling K. Brown), and scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Nunn), a woman who seems to be the only person around capable of interpreting what’s going on in the crazed events that follow.

Black, who himself appeared in the original Predator as a mercenary given to telling rude, sexist jokes, proves to be the equal of the first film’s director John McTiernan when it comes to scrupulously staging elaborate, gory action in a given space.

But Black is not afraid to have some major fun with the premise. Two of the crazies McKenna meets include Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Baxley (Thomas Jane) who, between them, offer a little more nuanced variation of that obnoxious character Black once played.

Kimberley French / Twentieth Century Fox</p><p>The Predator returns to Earth and preys on a new generation of earthlings in a new film reboot.</p></p>

Kimberley French / Twentieth Century Fox

The Predator returns to Earth and preys on a new generation of earthlings in a new film reboot.

Black, who co-scripted with Fred Dekker, offers a few entertaining callbacks to both Predator ("Get to the chopper!") and its 1990 sequel Predator 2. (Note the presence of Jake Busey as a scientist who shares the surname of Predator 2’s crazed government investigator, played by Jake’s dad Gary Busey.)

But mostly, Black indulges his oft geeky sense of humour: He is, for example, willing to hit pause on the action to have characters debate on whether the word "predator" is really the best description of an entity that more closely resembles a trophy hunter.

If that kind of humour appeals more than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rippling pecs, by all means go for it.

All others: Get to the chopper.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Kimberley French / Twentieth Century Fox</p><p>A deadly Predator escapes from a secret government compound.</p>

Kimberley French / Twentieth Century Fox

A deadly Predator escapes from a secret government compound.

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

Read full biography

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