Mar 17, 2015

Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Everyone knows that Predator is a classic as far as the action genre goes. If you somehow don't, get on that. It wasn't a big hit with the critics at the time, but it did make a lot of money. Critics eventually warmed up to Predator as they sometimes do and now it looks like it will continue on as one of those infinitely re-watchable flicks. I mean how good does an 80's actioner with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the jungle along with his commando buddies trying to survive being hunted down by a technologically and physically superior alien species sound? Like the purest of symphonies to me.

So how come Predator 2 is never really talked about? Where did it go wrong? Well, probably one of the biggest problems of Predator 2 began in pre-production. The producers wanted the budget of Predator 2 to be the same as Predator which made it impossible to hold onto director John McTiernan who had just come off arguably the greatest action movie ever made in Die Hard or Arnold Schwarzenegger who was still at this point a rising star. Both would obviously have higher salary fees and unfortunately, the producers didn't want to pay up. The budget ended up being higher anyway but probably still not high enough to retain two extremely popular talents.


Genre: action, sci-fi, thriller
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Produced by: John Davis, Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver, etc.
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Running time: 108 minutes
Production company: Davis Entertainment, Lawrence Gordon Productions, Silver Pictures, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Cannon Film Distributors, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $35,000,000
Box office: $57,120,318 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Kevin Peter Hall, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Morton Downey Jr., Calvin Lockhart, Steve Kahan, Henry Kingi, Corey Rand, Elpidia Carrillo, Lilyan Chauvin, Michael Mark Edmondson



It's 1997 and Los Angeles is a veritable war zone. Gang wars have taken over the streets and the city's police force is hard pressed to keep things in order. As two police officers lay bleeding to death in the street in the middle of a police vs. Colombian gang shootout, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) arrives on the scene and takes quick action in order to rescue his fellow officers. As the action unfolds, a Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) watches from above.


While it's pretty easy to criticize the different setting of this sequel, I actually don't mind the change from the jungle of a made up South American country to downtown LA. Stephen Hopkins tries to portray Los Angeles as a jungle as well and it works relatively well. It's something that could've been executed a little bit better, but dark, dirty alleyways and rooftops all present significant danger just like an overgrown jungle would with all of its treetops. 

This version of LA is a little bit special though. Released in 1990, the story of Predator 2 is however set a bit in the future. What the brothers Thomas have done is extrapolate their 1990 LA into something that the city could become in 1997. Global warming seems to be a thing, cops carry sidearms with laser sights and gangs pretty much control the streets. Not so far from reality right?

What's funny is that there's a certain satirical flavour to how these gangs of future Los Angeles are portrayed. They're exaggerated, overblown and stick to easy racial stereotypes. The voodoo obsessed, ganja-smoking Jamaican gang fit that bill quite nicely and you can't really say otherwise. I suppose it's all in good fun, but it's definitely not something you can really take all that seriously. 

In terms of the action sequences, overall I'd say they're middle of the road. There's maybe one or two scenes that are worthy of a smile or a "wow," but nothing more than that really. Obviously the film has some big shoes to fill as a sequel to Predator and it's just not up to the challenge sadly. The editing seems a bit overdone during the action scenes and the volume just seems dialed up a bit too much. While not terrible by any means, the whole effort is simply middling. 

The lack of suspense is what really got to me though. While it wasn't a horror movie, Predator had a surprising amount of tension throughout. That's all but disappeared in Predator 2 and Stephen Hopkins seems completely unable to create any at all. I was never truly on the edge of my seat while watching P2 and my heart rate remained quite comfortable. Again, there are maybe one or two scenes that work in the suspense department, but there's nothing consistent.

Still, there are some aspects of the film that I did like. I mean the production as a whole definitely feels of good quality even if it is lacking in the thrills department. The sets look great and that especially goes for the South American tribal-inspired apartment of a certain Colombian drug lord. (Spoilers) The place is honestly pretty freaky looking in the aftermath of the Predator attack with its collection of skinned corpses hanging from the ceiling. It's definitely not a place I'd want to be at night on my own. (End Spoilers

Probably the best part of all is the finale which ends up becoming a semi-wild chase. (Spoilers) Things get particularly interesting once we're inside the Predator's ship which is like nothing ever seen before. When all those other Predators pop up after Mike Harrigan kills the first Predator? Way cool. Got to love that xenomorph skull Easter egg as well. (End Spoilers)

The Predator, a role that Kevin Peter Hall reprised is definitely improved as well. The suit that Hall wears is of much better quality and doesn't seem as suit-like as it was before. Allowing for far better movement, he also gets way more cool extraterrestrial toys that make this Predator a far more dangerous enemy. Good for Kevin Peter Hall to also have won such prominent billing as well.

Danny Glover is also worthy of some praise as the Dirty Harry-esque Lieutenant Mike Harrigan. You can't go wrong with Glover as he pretty much tries to single-handedly carry this movie on his back. He's bursting with energy and seems very credible. That's what you get I suppose when you play
Roger Murtaugh and it works.

I don't hate Predator 2 or anything, but I am disappointed with it. I think it could've stood on its own two feet without Arnold Schwarzenegger, but clearly the departure of John McTiernan hurts. The change of setting is fine with me, but Stephen Hopkins is incapable of directing convincing action sequences nor is he able to inject much suspense. Quite simply, Predator 2 is a mostly flat affair with better production values.



Related Reviews:

Predator (1987) 
Predators (2010)

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

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