Arts & Life, Film & Television

‘The Predator’ makes a fast-paced and fun thrill ride for audiences

“You are one beautiful motherfucker.”

Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn, “Office Christmas Party”)’s response to first seeing The Predator is one of many moments that not only harkens back to the first film in the franchise, but is also a twist that acts as a nostalgic love letter to fans of the previous films.

The Predator” follows a group of disgraced military soldiers and evolutionary biologist Bracket as they hunt the titular extraterrestrial, only to discover he is being hunted by a more evolved form of his species, the Ultimate Predator.

As the fourth installment of the hit action sci-fi franchise that has spanned over three decades, any filmmaker would struggle to bring something new to a mildy-reviewed franchise, unless that filmmaker is writer/director Shane Black.

Black, who’s known for writing and directing the neo-noir crime comedies “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “The Nice Guys,” infuses his sense of dark wit and unique character crafting into this film in a way that creates a new sense of fun found only in the original film, in which he co-starred as victim Rick Hawkins.

The entire ensemble of characters certainly have moments of clichéd dialogue, but thanks to brilliant delivery and strong performances, they all succeed in keeping audiences engaged.

While the squad, affectionately labelled “Group 2” by the characters, work as a whole, there are two key standouts that keep the fun going: Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane.

Certainly one of the oddest pairings in the film, the bald-half of comedic duo “Key & Peele” and the dramatic star known for his role as Frank Castle in the 2004 adaptation of “The Punisher” shine in so many scenes together, they deserve their own buddy-action spinoff.

While Key delivers much of the comedic dialogue with ease, Jane actually pulls off the more humorous moments from his tourettes-afflicted character, including one overly-explicit outburst that leaves the audience in tears and chuckling long past the delivery.

Another standout performer in the cast is Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”) as human antagonist Will Traeger, a government agent tasked with collecting the Predator and all of his technology, and is willing to kill the team to get it.

Brown, who is known for playing mostly protagonist roles in both film and television, is a deliciously evil villain who eats up every moment of scenery he’s in, whether it be his evil laugh or excessive chewing of Nicotine gum.

Aside from the talented cast, Black and prior collaborator Fred Dekker (“The Monster Squad”) have crafted a finely-tuned film that is nicely paced and delivers many callbacks to the first film, as well as a couple of throwaway references to its sequels, that all audiences can enjoy.

A quick, but funny throwback comes during the team’s escape from government agents in which Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes, “Moonlight”) sees a cluster of parked motorcycles and shouts out, “Get to the choppers,” another twist on one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lines from the original.

While the comedy and characters are certainly fun to watch, the action is also very inviting for both sci-fi and franchise fans, with a combination of effective CGI and classic, bloody practical effects.

One notable combination of the two, however, is early in the film in which the Predator is knocked out while in stealth mode, but due to half of a body hanging in a tree above him, the blood from the exposed intestines drips down on to him, revealing his location to squad leader Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, “Logan”).

Overall, “The Predator” might not quite reach the basic-yet-stellar heights of the original film, but it works toward developing a story that can continue past this film and features smooth pacing, a great infusion of comedy and a fantastic ensemble cast, landing as the second-best in the franchise.

Stars: 4/5

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