Movie review: Laughs and gross-outs top scares in latest 'Predator' sequel

  • An alien hunter tries to take over the Earth. Or is trying to save it in "The Predator"?

    An alien hunter tries to take over the Earth. Or is trying to save it in "The Predator"? Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

 
 
Updated 9/13/2018 2:50 PM

"The Predator" - ★ ★

Parts of "The Predator" veer toward a robust, self-aware genre comedy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Other parts strive for some serious science-fiction thrills wrapped around an environmental theme.

Ultimately, though, plot and character become collateral damage in this free-for-all mess of goofy jokes, blood-splattering violence, cluttered visual effects and preposterous stunts.

At its most desperate comic level, "The Predator" features a scene in which the titular alien cuts off a man's arm in the back of a military vehicle.

When the unknowing driver asks if everything's OK, the alien sticks the arm -- brandishing a Roger Ebert thumbs-up -- next to the front seat where the driver can see it.

Not boring, for sure. Still, the ominous horror and neatly constructed suspense in John McTiernan's 1987 original "Predator" have been replaced by spastic, often confusing action sequences.

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This noisy, fast-paced, discombobulated, fifth sequel stars the personable Boyd Holbrook and his overworked furrowed brow as Quinn McKenna, a former U.S. Army sniper turned mercenary.

In Mexico, a crashing alien space craft interrupts a Mexican hostage exchange under observation by McKenna and his fellow mercs, who die in gruesome ways,

Realizing that nobody will believe the truth, McKenna mails an alien helmet and a piece of weaponized armor home to his estranged wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski) and young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), a middle-school student with Asperger's syndrome and a genius scientific mind.

The military accuses McKenna of killing his men, and places him in a transport with a group of wisecracking prisoners lovingly referred to as "the Loonies" (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Augusto Aguilera, Thomas Jane and Alfie Allen).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The U.S. government -- represented by Sterling K. Brown's candy-popping mystery agent -- whisks evolutionary biologist Dr. Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) to a secret research facility where scientists study a heavily sedated Predator, one of many that have arrived on Earth since 1987.

The Loonies and McKenna escape. He hooks up with Brackett to fight even more incoming Predators, one with snarling space dogs.

Evolutionary biologist Dr. Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) tries to protect Rory (Jacob Tremblay) in "The Predator."
Evolutionary biologist Dr. Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) tries to protect Rory (Jacob Tremblay) in "The Predator." - Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Meanwhile, young Rory opens the box from Dad and figures out how to operate the alien combat gear just in time to use them for his Halloween trick-or-treating costume.

It probably seemed like a risk-averse idea for Shane Black, writer of the original "Predator" (and one of its first on-screen victims), to direct and co-write (with "Monster Squad" creator and fellow UCLA classmate Fred Dekker) the next franchise chapter.

But "The Predator" exhibits little of the snarky zing and stylish flourishes of Black's directorial works "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and "The Nice Guys" that impressed critics, the public less so.

Why set up the leading lady to be as smart and physically super as Wonder Woman, then have her shoot herself in the foot so she can stumble about for strained comic effect?

Why make the tics and vocal explosions of a Loonies' Tourette Syndrome the easy source of laughs?

And how did that Predator know the meaning of the thumbs-up gesture? Watching the Fonz on "Happy Days" reruns?

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Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key

Directed by: Shane Black

Other: A 20th Century Fox release. Rated R for language, sexual references, violence. 107 minutes

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