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Director: John McTiernan
review by Octavio Ramos Jr
Okay, Predator is the ultimate testosterone movie, with its body-building, tough-talking cast; cache of weapons, including a handheld mini-gun (used by none other than Jesse 'the body' Ventura); a "scared out of her mind" woman who speaks little English; and a bone-breaking, skull-collecting monster, but it is also one hell of a ride. As a movie, Predator at first glance can be seen as a throwaway picture, but closer inspection exposes a rites-of-passage film that really just isn't made anymore. It also served as a springboard for director John McTiernan, who since Predator has gone on to direct movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), The 13th Warrior (1999), and the remake of Rollerball (2002).
Predator opens with Major 'Dutch' Schaeffer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his commandos getting out of a helicopter in an undisclosed Central American country. It seems that ex-commando and CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers) has called upon Dutch's team so that they can rescue a lost cabinet minister. The team rappels into what appears to be a dense South American jungle, where they soon find the downed helicopter. Almost immediately things do not appear right to Dutch, but he and his team push forward, at last finding a secret gunrunning base that has backing from Russian advisors.
But the gunrunners and their backers are not the problem, particularly when Dutch and his team make short work of the base. Stalking the team with the help of a sophisticated cloaking shield is an alien hunter on safari. The alien's goal is to hunt down the team and bring back their skulls as trophies.
McTiernan makes the most out of the threadbare plot by focusing on the characters. All the team members are well developed and likeable, and as a result we as the audience are caught up in their predicament. Indeed, the outward bravado of the team members, like the predator's cloaking shield, serves as only temporary protection, as one by one they are hideously dispatched. When firepower fails, first Billy (Sonny Landham), then Dutch, resort to more primitive weapons. What follows is perhaps one of the best one-on-one battles ever filmed. Schwarzenegger is in top form here, drawing on the skills he developed on The Terminator (1984) to create a silent, stoic, and deadly man who is at times vulnerable but always stalwart. Then there's the alien hunter, who is physically played by Kevin Peter Hall. The special effects used on the predator augment the character, helping bring it to life. These effects are never overdone, nor do they detract from the creature. It is this subtlety that makes Predator an engaging film.
Unfortunately, Predator suffers some setbacks. For example, there are times when Dutch is out of character. During the film's early sequences, Dutch is weary of death and destruction. He refers to his team as a rescue team, emphasising to Dillon that they are not assassins. In a later sequence, Dutch launches a bayonet into a gunrunner, and as the poor sap is impaled onto a wall, the war-weary soldier smirks and says, "Stick around." Lines like these detract from the film, but fortunately they are few and far between.
Predator helped anchor Schwarzenegger's reputation as an action hero, but unfortunately the actor slowly abandoned roles such as these and instead attempted to expand his personality on screen, resulting in groaners such as Twins (1989), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Last Action Hero (1993). Compare Schwarzenegger's performance in The Terminator to his role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and you will see what I mean.
If you are looking for an action movie that has the ability to engross you, not because of its special effects but rather for its straightforward plot, throat-throttling action sequences, and outstanding characterisation, then Predator is for you.
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