“That’s not a predator; that’s a sports hunter,” exclaims Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), a scientist brought in to examine the alien visitor. “Well, we took a vote. Predator is cooler,” replies government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown).
If The Predator had consisted of more snippets of dialogue like this, I would have loved Shane Black’s take on the iconic character. Black, who played a small role in the original Predator, has since gone to write and direct excellent films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys. For his return to the Predator-verse, he teamed up with writer Fred Dekker, who previously treated us to 80s flicks like The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps. That seems like a match made in heaven. Not in the least because you can call them Black & Dekker. So my hopes were high, which is why it was all the more disappointing that I ended up watching a sloppy mess of a film.
The story? Well, that revolves around Quinn McKenna (played on automatic pilot by Boyd Holbrook), a sniper in the army who stumbles across the Predators while on a mission. He sends some alien gear home, which is where his 11-year-old autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) finds them and uses them to dress up for Halloween. In the process he activates some of the gear, which lures a group of Predators to his cozy suburban town.
Meanwhile his dad is thrown in military prison where he hooks up with a bunch of misfits. There’s Trevante Rhodes as the mysterious soldier Nebraska, Keegan-Michael Key as a manic character named Coyle, and Thomas Jane as a PTSD-suffering veteran called Baxley. They all band together along with the abovementioned scientist played by Munn and don’t seem to even blink when running into an alien who likes to rip the spines out of human beings.
You can kinda feel where they were going with this movie. Take all of the Predator elements people are expecting to see, add some new ones (alien dogs) and then turn it into some whacky 80s action flick. Unfortunately it never really takes off except for a couple of flickers here and there. But the main qualm is that the characters can’t shut up for a single second. They are constantly joking and bickering with lines that try way too hard to be witty. And it just keeps on going until you start to hope that a Predator will come along and remove a spine or two. Throw in some not so stellar action scenes and you are looking at a movie that misfires on pretty much all fronts. Guess I’ll just stick with the 1987 original.