Director: Shane Black
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown
Run Time: 107 mins
The Predator series seems to have now come full circle with Shane Black (who played Hawkins in the original) directing this fourth installment, with the aim to kickstart another trilogy. Black is a talented filmmaker with an impressive resume under his belt ranging from the big-budget but subversive Iron Man 3 to smaller projects such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. He’s a skilled writer, who generally tends to develop characters really well and has a good sense of humour. This should be a good match for him, and with a property as lucrative as this series, if this is successful, it should propel him even higher.
A little like the highly underrated Predator 2, Black moves this sci-fi extravaganza into the suburbs. The film follows Boyd Holbrook’s character, Quinn McKenna, a soldier who is the only survivor after a Predator attack. When he has some of the remnants after the dead Predator that he sends back to his address, his disabled son gets his hands on it, signalling the Predators to retrieve this. McKenna then teams up with a group of PTSD-ridden soldiers to take down these extra-terrestrial powers. Whilst a new narrative for the franchise is refreshing, Predators opened up possibilities to further narratives and it is a little disappointing to see that those avenues are no longer being explored.
The reviews for this film have generally been very unkind so it surprised me that I had as much fun with The Predator as I did. Yes, it’s a little narratively all over the place and its pacing is rather breakneck, but Black’s signature humour and characterisations remains intact and I grew to care for the characters, even though they may not have quite been as fleshed out as they could have been. The film is at its strongest in its first third, where it poses some interesting ideas and a science facility action sequence is particularly well shot.
The cast are all pretty good and Boyd Holbrook does a sound job in the lead and bolsters the cast together. Jacob Tremblay, as McKenna’s disabled son, seems to come from a totally diffeent film at first, but he slowly settles into the role. Sterling K. Brown is great as the human villain, who is very sarcastic and has many of Black’s quips. Of the soldiers McKenna teams up with, Keegan-Michael Key makes the biggest impression and most of the film’s laughs, as expected, come from him.
The film’s biggest problem is its pacing. The film comes in at a lean 107 minutes but this is a piece of work that certainly could have benefitted from another half-an-hour. Scenes are often quite short and there are a few moments where characters seem to get to places with no explanation. There’s a lot to get through and it seems a strange decision that Black edited it down to this relatively short length.
Henry Jackman’s score revisits some of Alan Silvestri’s original themes and is generally sound. Larry Fong’s cinematography is good and there are a few interesting shots but the film is not as visually resplendent as some other films that Fong has shot, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Kong: Skull Island.
Overall, there is a lot of fun to be had with The Predator and one has to admire its shambolic construction. I’d be more than happy to watch Black direct a sequel and with perhaps lesser constraints and quotas, it could be a really good film. There’s a lot of good work here and although it’s by no means the best film in the series, it does offer some interesting ideas and a refreshing change of scenery into the suburbs.