The Predator: Lots of frantic activity squeezed into one movie

The Predator’s key problem is that it lacks the courage to make the titular alien-hunter the leading character. PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX

REVIEW/Science fiction thriller


107 minutes/opens today/2.5 stars

The story: Soldier-for-hire Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) is on a mission in Mexico when he stumbles upon cargo from a wrecked alien ship. Back in the United States, his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) receives a box filled with strange technology. Alien hunters soon arrive, their intentions unclear but their actions might be linked to the work of a top-secret government facility with knowledge of the alien visits.

SINGAPORE - There is a mini-series worth of frantic activity squeezed into this one movie. One alien predator is hunting, or is being hunted by, a secret government agency; a man and his boy; a ragtag band of veterans; and other bigger alien predators. And dogs - from both planets.

Chaotic, loud and filled with too many coincidences to count. The best thing that can be said about The Predator is that the dialogue is engaging, and some gags are funny. Did we forget to mention that there is a fair amount of comedy here too?

The fourth chapter in the Predator franchise (the sixth if one counts the two Alien Vs. Predator movies) is director and co-writer Shane Black's attempt at squaring the circle: Pleasing old fans, while winning over new ones.

The band of gun-toting misfits, for example, each with one handily memorable personality trait (the crazy one, the cool black one, the jokey black one, the religious one and so on) harkens back to Predator (1987), the first movie in the series.

To move the franchise forward, Black also tries to expand the world of the Predator by giving them hitherto unseen technology, while at the same time upgrading their motives, so they look less like bloodthirsty tourists and more like conquerors. Also, there are as many f-bombs as there are real ones, and a good amount of gore.

This being a Shane Black movie (Iron Man 3, 2013; The Nice Guys, 2016), the bro-repartee flies thick and fast, with the emphasis on manly ribbing and trivial arguments while ducking enemy fire, or while fleeing the wrath of a woman - in this case, one more totally unnecessary character in an army of unnecessary characters, the scientist Dr Bracket (played by Olivia Munn).

This movie's key problem is the same one plaguing too many franchises built around a monster (Alien, Jurassic Park, The Mummy) - it lacks the courage to make the monster the leading character. Instead, the studio, in typical fashion, packs the screen with too many forgettable good guys.

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