Boyd Holbrook and Sterling K. Brown face off with each other and a vicious alien in The Predator.
After some sub-standard sequels and badly-received Alien vs. Predator crossovers, director Shane Black, who starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original 1987 movie, has returned to the Predator franchise with an explosive new instalment, The Predator.
The film begins with army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) having his mission to take out a gang of kidnappers interrupted by a spaceship crashing to Earth.
The dreadlocked Predator aboard the ship dispatches several of McKenna's fellow soldiers, but is subdued by the sniper - who purloins some of its high-tech alien hunting equipment to send back home as evidence - a move that backfires after it ends up in the hands of his autistic son Rory (Wonder's Jacob Tremblay).
Also on the trail of the alien invader are a shadowy government organisation led by Agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown).
To help him examine the captured Predator, he brings in Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), an extraterrestrial-obsessed science teacher.
Agent Traeger questions Quinn and has him declared insane due to his alien encounter - throwing him together with a gang of troubled army veterans; Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley, (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera).
The group of misfits escape after some Predator-inspired havoc and team up to save Quinn's son and the Earth, while trying to stay out of the clutches of the authorities.
As you'd expect from a Predator movie made by Black, who scripted Lethal Weapon, there's plenty of knockabout action and one-liners - remaining true to the spirit of the original.
One good running gag is Casey's objections to the name Predator - as technically, predators hunt for food rather than sport, as the film's alien adversaries appear to do.
There's also plenty to like about this excellent cast, as Narcos star Holbrook is as admirably worn down and rugged as the central hero, while Munn brings plenty to what could have been a token female role in a testosterone-fuelled movie.
Brown also indulges in some enjoyable scenery-chewing as a relentless and ruthless agent, who is as much of an antagonist to Quinn and his gang as the Predator itself.
Despite this, and several nice nods to the gang from the original cult classic (including the casting of Jake Busey as the scientist son of his dad Gary's character from 1990’s Predator 2), The Predator is less than the sum of its parts.
The pacing is chaotic and confusing, leaving you feeling like scenes have been thrown together in a scattergun manner.
Although Black and Robocop 3 filmmaker Fred Dekker's script contains plenty of jokes and the odd thrill, it occasionally feels dated and nasty, and repeats action movie cliches that were hackneyed even when they made their names three decades ago.
Big ideas, such as linking an increase in Predator attacks to climate change, that attempt to give proceedings more depth, are also introduced and then seemingly abandoned.
That said, if you're a big Predator fan, there's still plenty to like about this latest instalment, while younger moviegoers will be delighted to hear that there's lots of splatter and gore to upset their parents.
The Predator isn't a terrible addition to the cult franchise, but it does feel like something of a(nother) missed opportunity to drag its murderous alien into 2018.
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