17 September 2018

How To Catch A Predator

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In 1987, a crack team of steroid-addled super men were slaughtered by a vagina-faced space-Rastafarian as they fucked about on a jungle mission. Thirty-one years later however it seems that director Shane Black has managed to find something even more terrifying than that first film's monster for his sequel The Predator. Sure the first movie's beastie was scary, with its towering height, mouth pincers, and shoulder cannons... but this film stars Jake Busey. JAKE FUCKING BUSEY for fuck's sake! Have you seen him in The Frighteners and Contact? He's literally a thing of nightmares. He's got the kind of creepy face and intense stare that should only ever be seen peering out of a haunted mirror in an old German fairytale. But he's worse because he's also a real man that walks our actual planet in real life! Sure he's only in this movie for a few minutes in the beginning but that's honestly enough to put the shits up me. I can understand a creature that's from another planet existing, but imagine something that started life in the ball-sack of Gary Busey. You'd be freaked out if you found a sentient creature living up Nick Nolte's arse or between Meatloaf's tit-folds, so why do we just accept a man that made his journey to Earth via Gary Busey's dick?!

Ignoring that though, it would seem that on paper Shane Black is the perfect man to make this film because of his unquestionable talent as a writer/director and his own personal history with the franchise. Black was actually in the first movie as an actor and can be identified as being the only member of Schwarzenegger's team that doesn't look like a swollen testicle. Although not an actor, the crafty producers of Predator decided that if they had any script problems whilst shooting then it might be handy to have him, a writer, bored and trapped in the jungle with them. Since then, Black has gone on to be Hollywood's highest paid writer, a cult writer/director, a director of big-budget Marvel movies, and then back to being a cult writer/director again. I know some people have their problems with his Iron-Man 3 but it's a masterpiece and they can fuck off with their moaning about The Mandarin being different from its racially dodgy origins. So Black knows The Predator, he knows how to work within the boundaries of somebody else's blockbuster franchise, and most importantly, he knows how to make a good movie. So why the Hell have the reviews been throwing knives at this film like Arnie pinning a man to the wall with a machete before screaming, “Stick around”?!

Along with wondering if I could take the phone out of another audience member's hand and kick it against the fucking wall to stop them staring at it, the reason behind this critical mauling was the question in my mind throughout the movie too. For the first two thirds of The Predator, I have to admit that I genuinely loved it. I have to also admit whilst I'm here that I rewatched 2010's Predators before going into this one and I thought that was pretty great too. However, that movie also avoided a wave of glowing reviews in favour of moderate indifference to the point we're at now in which most people have forgotten that it exists. To jog your memory, it's the one where the Predators take a group of mercenaries to a planet specifically to be hunted on with the most unbelievable thing being Adrian Brody's muscles. Both that movie and this share a few things in common, from the introduction of a stronger Predator, the Predator dogs, and a dedication to the hardcore violence that we all loved from the first. The two things that Predators sadly lacked however were memorable characters and quotable dialogue. Just look at the first movie and you'll see some of the strangest humans of all time and uttering lines like “I ain't got time to bleed” that have entered our pop-culture consciousness like an idiot's Shakespeare. 

The moment in which Carl Weathers and Arnie go for a handshake and then turn it into a mid-air arm-wrestle is also the single greatest moment in all of cinema and I'll fight anybody that says differently. I will fucking fight you. Of course, there's nothing in The Predator that can match that, however, the one thing that it has over Predators is Black himself who can do memorable characters and quotable dialogue in his sleep. Of course, Boyd Holbrook's lead character here isn't quite as iconic as Arnie's, but the name Quinn McKenna is certainly up there with Dutch, Mac, and Poncho at the very least. I'd also argue that his character actually exists on paper too and doesn't simply require the charisma of Arnie to drag it into existence. Black's sequel therefore corrects one of 2010's Predators issues by giving us a cast of characters that are as odd as the original and I have to say that they did make me laugh. Sure they're all characters that could have fallen out of his script for The Last Boy Scout, but fuck it- I'm a fan. His “Yo Momma” jokes might not be big and they might not be clever but let's not forget that this is a film about an alien with dreadlocks and a ladies hoo-ha for a mouth! 

However, like I said.. the film only gave me what I wanted for two-thirds of its running time because what I wanted was a Shane Black film. By the time the third act kicked in, the wit and quirkiness that had made the film so obviously his own had been replaced with the kind of generic action that you can get in any old movie. Arnie's original movie gave us these weird characters and then spent two hours killing them off whereas Black seems to enjoy the company of his gang so much that he forgets to off them until the end when it basically all happens at once. In terms of murdering its cast, if Predator is the Christmas shopper that buys its presents throughout the year then The Predator is the last minute loser that's running around the shop throwing balls of yarn and dildos into the trolly in a blind panic. Not to say that all of the characters die of course, before you think I've ruined it for you. But the ones that do die all seem to snuff it within five minutes of each other and there were times that I genuinely couldn't even work out who had died. There were reports that, having shot it during daytime, Black re-filmed the entire final third of his movie to set it at night as he believed night to be scarier. But you really just can't see what the fuck is going on half of the time. In which case his film is like a Christmas panic buyer that's decided to blindfold themselves before running into the shop because they're so ashamed with what they're doing that they don't even want to see it themselves.

But let's not forget that in my humble opinion there is still two thirds of a really fun movie in here and it's not like the final stretch is a complete write-off. In which case, I think that there are several reasons for the negativity, with one of the main ones being that all of the good stuff is upfront. If I eat a delicious meal in a nice restaurant before being served dog-shit on toast for pudding, then it's probably going to be the night of poo-breath that I remember. I know I said that the end wasn't a complete write-off before comparing it to dog-shit on toast, and so I should clarify that I am a big fan of toast. Nor does it help that the film's reshoots were rumoured to be because the movie was a mess, which means that people went in with an air of scepticism to begin with. So... it's like having a nice meal and then being served dog-shit on toast at a restaurant that you've already been told will likely poison you before you've even gone in. Oh, and I guess the whole story about Shane Black hiring a paedophile actor probably didn't help the situation either. In case you didn't catch that story, it turns out that one of Black's regular actors, Steven Wilder Streige, is a sex-offender who has just had his scenes cut from this movie after co-star Olivia Munn found out about his criminality. So, sure, you got a nice main course out of it, but now it's like being served the dog-shit pudding after you've spent the entire meal waiting to be poisoned and then you find out that a chef just got sacked for trying to fuck a child. And to be fair, that last reason alone is why I won't eat in my local McDonald's.

I also think that the original Predator is such a film of its time that, as much as I enjoyed both this and 2010's Predators, nothing will ever be able to replicate what people want from this franchise. The first is basically just 'Rambo Vs The Space Alien' and unfortunately for The Predator, the action genre has completely changed over the last thirty years. The excess of the 1980's was perfect for the one-man-army plot, with beefcake action cinema almost certainly being a reaction to Regan's foreign policies. But by the end of that decade, the genre was redefined by both Die Hard and Point Break to show that our heroes could get the job done whilst also being identifiably part of the human species. Do I believe that Arnie could survive a fist fight with a Predator? Of course I do. But the only guy of his size and fame today is The Rock and his films only work when they have their tongue in their cheek. I'm not even sure that the Predator has cheeks and I'm certainly not sure that an ironic entry in a franchise that's always taken itself quite seriously is the way forward. Today our one-man-army movies are all super-hero films, as normal, relatable humans are imbued with an unnatural strength, which the end of this film worryingly hints might be the future direction of the franchise. But re-moulding a property to generically fit in with what works today also doesn't seem the way forward with the homogenization of an iconic film hardly feeling like a solution. In which case perhaps the final problem for Shane Blacks The Predator is that like shoulder-pads, the mullet, and the AID's epidemic, Predator is something that simply should have been left in the 1980's. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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