“The Predator” is a fun, brutal, fighting machine that wastes no time getting down to business—not unlike its title character. It’s not big on wasted dialogue or too many attempts at meta humor, playing both like an homage/throwback film to the action of the ‘80s and something that feels new and fresh. There’s nothing pretentious or whimsical here as we so often see in films that almost parody ‘80s action instead of trying to figure out why these movies have endured in the first place. It’s easy to mimic or mock something. It’s much harder to ask why the first “Predator” captured lightning in a bottle and then try to catch it again. With a fantastic cast and razor-sharp pacing, the fact is that this is what you want from a movie called “The Predator.”
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Black wastes no time, actually opening the film on a predator ship hurtling towards Earth. A sniper named Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on a job when he’s practically hit by an escape pod containing one of the legendary creatures. McKenna gets his hands on some of the alien’s gear, sending some of it home and hiding one particularly bad-ass piece, well, somewhere nowhere will find it. Instead of going to his P.O. box, the mail ends up on his doorstep, where his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) opens the package, finding a predator weapon and mask.
Meanwhile, a science teacher named Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is brought in to examine the predator that McKenna incapacitated, pushed around by a smug asshole named Traeger (a fantastic Sterling K. Brown, proving he should play villains more often). While that’s about to go predictably haywire, McKenna is put on a bus of fellow military prisoners, including Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes, who should be an action star if there’s any justice), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). Nicknamed “The Loonies,” the gang eventually connects with Casey, and they all try to catch up with the predator before he gets to Rory to retrieve his stuff.
Co-written by another ‘80s icon in Fred Dekker, this is a movie that keenly understands what its audience wants and endeavors to provide that, which is something more action filmmakers could learn from Black. There’s a rhythm and a structure to “The Predator” that’s easy to take for granted but much harder to pull off than people will probably give this film credit for. It’s in the way Black jumps from scene to scene and beat to beat, giving each character just enough dialogue and development for them to register as more than bodies for the predator to hunt but not lingering long enough for viewers to get impatient. Black is assisted greatly by an incredibly charismatic cast, and he knows how to use them to amplify their strengths. Holbrook and Rhodes are the buddy action movie duo you never knew you wanted, Munn holds her own (although her character kind of takes a back seat in the second half), and Jane and Key are fun comic relief.
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