The Predator review: If there was one guy to come back to reinvent the Predator franchise, then that man would be Shane Black. After being offed in the original movie back in 1987, Black purely returns to write and direct this sequel some 31 years on. Throwing back to Predator, one of the finest action movies of all time and an early 1980s vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, this new movie, which serves as much as a reboot as a sequel, is as high-octane, brutal and intensely funny as you may expect. Well, for the first half, anyway.

The Predator review

The Predator review [TIFF]

Proceedings kick off in space, an intergalactic setting for a sci-fi desperately in need in a kick up the backside following rather lackluster sequel and reboots in the three decades since the birth of the first one. Pre-emptive set-up scenes are reminiscent of what has come before in the rather dire Alien Vs. Predator off-shoots, but its not too long before Black and co-writer Fred Dekker have us on terra firma with the action refocussed to planet Earth.

We meet Boyd Holbrook (in his second big Fox franchise following some solid work as the villain in 2017’s Logan), here present as mercenary Quinn McKenna, right in the middle of infiltrating a drug cartel in the dead of night. It is here where he comes into first contact with an alien life form, later revealed to be The Predator, which crash lands in his near vicinity. He manages to score some memorabilia after fending them off; some useful tools including a gauntlet, helmet and an incredible metal ball which allows its holder to become completely invisible.

McKenna manages to post the items to his home address back in California – save the useful ball which he swallows for future use – from a remote location in border-town Mexico. This is just before he is picked up by local authorities and thrown in the ‘looney bin’ with a band of misfits – played by the likes of Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, Thomas Janes, Keegan-Michael Key, and Augusto Aguilera.

Meanwhile, McKenna’s son Rory (played by Jacob Tremblay), a whizz-kid with code and the like, who picks up the items his father has sent home.

Across town, Olivia Munn’s biologist with a massive interest in aliens Casey Bracket, who has been drafted in to join Sterling K. Brown’s gum-chewing, wise-cracker Traeger to help out at a massive unit set-up to explore the science on a captured Predator.

Everything comes together when said predator escapes – and essentially it’s down to all involved to bring the monster down. Of course, there is so much more to the film than that – cue 10ft-tall super-Predators, Predator dogs (super cute, actually), fierce R-rated action, tons of gore, masses of kill set pieces and the kind of rapid-fire wise-cracking comedic dialogue you might come to expect from a Shane Black movie – only set over Halloween rather than his usual Christmas theme.

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So, is it any good? Well, essentially yes. It’s a massive crowd pleaser with more than a few nods back to the original (maybe too many), and there is tons of gore, Black and, in credit to the studio, no fear in showing tons and tons of gore, mountains of sweary dialogue and slightly risqué jokes. It rolls along at break-neck speed and for the most part works. Holbrook, while clearly aiming for something entirely different than those who came before him, manages to carry the film nicely. Even the climactic scene, which we won’t go into, could have fallen flat on its face in other hands, but works well.

There are tons of laugh-out-loud moments – Thomas Jane a particular stand-out, as too is Trevante Rhodes who gets his first major ride out in a mainstream blockbuster – a wonderful teaming with Holbrook.

Tremblay is solid, but his section feels a little out of place in terms of tone, while Olivia Munn ably handles herself in only one of two female roles in the entire movie.

Black’s script is razor-sharp in terms of dialogue but feels a little disjointed in places. The second half is much weaker than the first, and the climax actually somewhat disappointing in terms of pay-off and thrill factor.

That said, it’s difficult to walk away from not having had a good time. Definitely a step-up from previous sequels, and a film from a studio hoping to re-ignite a franchise. I just suspect that there will be much bigger critics of its content than me out there – die-hard fans may have expected much more.

The Predator review by Paul Heath, September 2018.

The Predator was reviewed at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Click here for all of our coverage.

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The Predator