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A disparate crew

Boyd Holbrook in The Predator.

Boyd Holbrook in The Predator.

The Predator
4 stars
Director: Shane Black
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
Duration: 107 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

It’s been a while since the first Predator film hit the screens – 31 years, in fact, when Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined what I recall being a mildly entertaining action-horror film as the leader of an elite military rescue team that comes under attack by a hulking extra-terrestrial species.

Numerous sequels and ridiculous spin-offs down the line, the franchise seems to have been ‘rebooted’ with this latest instalment. The Predator (not to confuse it with its simply-monikered origin).

When a spaceship crash-lands in Georgia, professional sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrooke) retrieves some of its hardware and mails it home for safe-keeping, unwittingly putting his ex-wife and autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) in danger.

In an attempt to find our what McKenna knows about the craft while keeping its presence secret, the military arrest him, paint him as crazy, and send him off to prison.

While on the prison bus, he meets a group of fellow army veterans suffering from PTSD. As they make their way to an army facility, evolutionary biologist Dr Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) is called in by the government to examine a being that survived the crash.

Nicknamed ‘Predator’ – leading to a gag discussing the accuracy or not of that name – said being doesn’t take too kindly to being poked and prodded. It escapes, leaving behind much death and destruction. A determined Casey chases it down, right into the path of the oncoming busload of veterans.

And when bus, Predator, and doctor crash, much chaos ensues.

That the group of veterans on the bus come to be known as the Loonies is a pretty good indicator of what unfolds next.

For, whatever semblance of a plot there may be is overwhelmed by a lunatic, action-packed sequence of events featuring much gunfire. There are also exploding alien parts, leaving behind oodles of luminous green goo and eviscerated body parts leaving behind puddles of blood.

A colourful and rag-tag bunch of anti-heroes

There’s also way too many human innards, and myriad wild chases as the Predator and his, um, predator dogs, hunt down McKenna and his very motley crew to retrieve its missing hardware. To add to the confusion, a team of shady US government operatives led by Sterling K. Brown’s Traeger, is in turn chasing the Loonies. It makes little sense, with expository dialogue about bigger, better and more badass Predators – having somehow mingled with human DNA, which has helped them upgrade themselves – not much help.  

Action doyen Shane Black, who directs a script he wrote with Fred Dekker, doesn’t quite deliver a coherent or credible narrative.

He doesn’t seem to care to, either. But, what he lacks in narrative is more than compensated by the oftentimes witty banter between the protagonists as they negotiate the incessant, explosive and often ridiculous action sequences that are thrown their way.

And it is all done with such infectious gusto that it is almost impossible not to get swept along.

Black takes a little time away from the action for us to connect with the characters just enough for us to be moved when some of them – inevitably – shuffle off this mortal coil.

Holbrook makes for a great baby-faced but tough leading man, while the Loonies – Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) – are a colourful and rag-tag bunch of anti-heroes, with all their tics and foibles. Unsurprisingly, Tremblay’s quiet, reticent, incredibly bright and well-spoken Rory fits in all too well with the disparate adults.

But it’s not all males rampaging all over the place. My feminist senses were tingling at one of Munn’s initial scenes, which had her naked and being stalked by the alien. Yet, she proves to be no mere scream queen and gets to give as good as she gets, and to have as much fun as her male co-stars, even though she is heavily outnumbered.

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