[PREDATOR screens Saturday May 16th at midnight at the Capitol Theatre.]
Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.
The original PREDATOR,
from 1987, has gotten cited by culture-watching scorekeepers as one of
the ultimate "guy movies" (I'd vote for something WW2 like GUNS OF NAVARONE or KELLY'S HEROES or THE GREAT ESCAPE, but nobody ever asks me). PREDATOR
is a hyper-macho spectacle of biceps, bombs, guns, and catchphrases by
bigger-than-life actors, like the line - the one with the least swear
words - uttered by pro-wrestler and subsequent conspiracy-mongering
politician Jesse `The Body' Ventura, "I ain't got time to bleed!"
If you watch PREDATOR purely
as a jingoistic sci-fi action boys' cartoon, that's pretty much the way
to take it - very much in the spirit of star Arnold Schwarzenegger's
earlier zero-brain actioner COMMANDO, just with a fairly awesome
alien dropped in. Setting is the embattled Latin-American rain-forest
jungles where a team of super-commandos - who look more like G.I. Joe
dolls than anybody in G.I. JOE - RETALIATION did - assemble as a
hired US military rescue mission. Supposedly the mercenaries are here to
liberate hostages from leftist guerillas. Only after eliminating the
foes in a firefight do the swaggering heroes, led by the oak-tree-like
Dutch Schaeffer (Schwarzenegger) find out they were duped by the
Pentagon into destroying a secret Soviet spy-invasion camp.
some reason, the mercs are unhappy about killing a bunch of
Russian-backed left-wingers who weren't the same Russian-backed
left-wingers they thought they were going to be killing. Huh? Well,
there was a lot about the Reagan years I still can't quite comprehend.
Maybe he's got a good case for seizing bits of Ukraine, maybe not, but I
am not happy Vladimir Putin seems to cue the resumption of the Cold
War. It never was the USA's finest hour.
moviegoers know, the commandos straightaway have worse problems. A UFO
happens to be landed nearby, and a deadly occupant watches all the
bloodshed eagerly. The ugly-faced visitor - and again, this isn't an
original premise either, having been done most notably by the B-cheapie WITHOUT WARNING
- is a tall, vicious alien equivalent of a big-game hunter. Having
killed and skinned a bunch of guerillas and Green Berets for trophies,
it now goes after the commandos. Dutch has to figure out how to defeat
the merciless Predator despite its invisibility technology and superior
death-ray firepower. The alpha human eventually ends up stripping down
to basic hand-made booby-traps and snares, just like the Ewoks in STAR WARS: THE RETURN OF THE JEDI.
like the Viet Cong against the US military in real life. Though you
can't really find much of a "message" in this movie, except that
massively-weaponed action-musclemen grunting catchphrases were
box-office gold in the go-go 1980s. So were space aliens, a lot of the
time. Director John McTiernan put the two together, and, well, you got PREDATOR.
When cast members - most of whom we've seen savagely slaughtered -
reappear and smile over the end credits to take bows, as in a
community-theater play (or Pro Wrestling), the effect is positively
disarming, in a relax-we're-just-putting-on-a-show goofball way.
Amazing book fun fact: the paperback novelization of PREDATOR
was penned by a hired-gun author, Paul Monette, who is best known as a
popular gay literary essayist who searingly chronicled the AIDS plague
until it claimed his own life. I am pretty sure he just did the Predator
project for the money - like everyone else. PREDATOR is at least more fun than its 1990 sequel, PREDATOR 2,
in which the same alien species went hunting gangstas and FBI in a
stereotypically hyper-violent Los Angeles, with Danny Glover grievously
miscast in the Arnold role as a one-man army cop. After that the
creatures mainly appeared in video games and crossover comic books
(Batman fought the Predator, and I am rightfully ashamed I know that),
until the Predators were double-teamed with the Aliens from ALIEN
in a couple of later sci-fi potboilers. It represented a career boost
for the Predator franchise, but kind of a comedown for the Aliens, which
ought to tell you something. (2 1/2 out of 4 stars)