Mar 10, 2015

Review: Predator (1987)

I think everyone can agree that there are few movies are as manly as Predator is. How manly is it really? Well, it's enough to probably increase the hair per square inch on any man's chest. It's manly enough to even pump up a regular man's biceps into 20-inch monsters by the end of it. That eight month-old baby boy learning how to crawl over there? It honestly wouldn't be surprise me if he instantly turned into a mini body builder after watching ten or so minutes of Predator. Seriously, that's how manly this movie is.

But seriously, I love Predator. It wasn't my first experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger which all began with Conan the Barbarian, but it was another chapter in his greatness for me personally. The story isn't anything all that special, but that's what you say if you don't think a group of commandos going into a jungle on a rescue mission and running head first into a hostile alien is cool.

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Genre: action, sci-fi, thriller
Directed by: John McTiernan
Produced by: John Davis, Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver, etc.
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Running time: 107 minutes
Production company: Amercent Films, American Entertainment Partners L.P., Davis Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Mever Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English, Spanish
Budget: $15,000,000
Box office: $98,267,558 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall

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Synopsis


Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is assigned to a rescue mission by the CIA along with his six-man team. Finding a destroyed U.S. helicopter as well as the corpses of several dead Special Forces, something is clearly wrong. Furious at being set up by the CIA, the situation worsens as it appear that something else is lurking in the jungle. Something that's hunting them.

Review


Predator is John McTiernan's second directing job and it's quite the step up. He's directing one of the biggest stars of the 80's in Schwarzenegger and he's got Stan Winston on special effects. Along with Donald McAlpine as director of cinematography, Predator is a sweaty and rough hewn affair. Like carving a statue with a pickaxe, it's not a pretty film in any sense and it has no business in being so anyway.

Predator is the guy who wears his hat at the table. He's the guy who drives a 90's Chevrolet C/K and eats Hungry Man frozen dinners every night. For what he may lack in charm, he makes up for it by getting the job done every time, all the time. That's what Predator is like every time you watch it. It just never fails to delight.

The first thing that should be addressed is the action itself. In a word: glorious. I can say without a doubt that there are enough bullets and explosions to truly satisfy any true action fan out there. One scene in particular has a bunch of faceless insurgents being "taken care of" by Dutch's team and who doesn't love seeing a bunch of baddies getting blown up in satisfying slow motion style anyway? Predator is simply old school action at its finest.

Predator then transitions into a bit of an action/slasher hybrid kind of thing that ramps up the tension while still staying true to its action roots. Part of the reason why things are so tense is because of the "Jaws technique." What I mean is that the Predator isn't revealed right away besides the fact that we're shown its heat-sensing point of view quite a lot. The film will abruptly cut to the Predator's POV as it seems content in watching and waiting while Dutch's team tries to figure out what's going on and what to do next. Like a hunter planning its next move, the Predator takes delight in the hunt.

Besides not revealing the Predator right away, I do think that McTiernan does a legitimately good job in creating tension throughout. Alan Silvestri's score will lower in volume and the seconds seem to stretch out as Dutch's team sneak about or investigate something weird. I particularly like the scene where Dutch's tracker Billy (Sonny Landham) senses something in the trees ahead of them. He stares at the same spot for what seems like forever, even though he can't see anything. We're definitely not talking Alien type scares or thrills, but Predator definitely delivers something of a thrilleing right hook.

(Spoilers) The last segment of Predator is a one on one confrontation between Dutch and the Predator and this is where McTiernan kicks things into high gear. This final battle between these two is just icing on the icing. A combination of Rocky and First Blood put together, Dutch vs. the Predator is a battle for the ages. (End Spoilers)

Is it any surprise that Predator finds Arnold Schwarzenegger in fine form? He goes for a more calm kind of coolness here and he delivers his trademark one-liners with aplomb. Quite a few of Arnold's library of famous lines can be found in Predator in fact but I doubt any Schwarzenegger fans need reminding of that.

The rest of the cast is filled with macho, testosterone-filled performances from greats like Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura and more. Pretty much every form of male toughness can be found in Predator. Mustached-tobacco chewing with a glare kind of toughness? Silent, kill you with a look kind of toughness? Track you down in the woods and end your life kind of toughness? All accounted for. Even Shane Black's character Hawkins is that "nerdy guy trying to be tough" kind of toughness which is still a certain brand of male toughness even if it's hilarious. 

Predator is about friendship between men. It's about trust between men. It's about revenge, bravery and the horrors of war. It's also about the universe and our relationship with it. OK, the last part's not true but everything else is though. Point is, few movies are as important to the action genre as Predator is and few are anywhere near as fun. I can safely say that Predator succeeds in making you "stick around."

Rating


8/10 

Related Reviews:


Predator 2 (1990) 
Predators (2010)

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) 
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007)