Shane Black brings gore and brawn back to the Predator

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Predator
Opens Sept. 14, wide
3 out of 5

Before he became the hottest scriptwriter in Hollywood, cautionary tale, and comeback kid, Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) was an actor. His most notable credit was Hawkins, one of the doomed commandos in the original Predator. It’s just fitting that 30 years later he’s in charge of bringing the extraterrestrial trophy hunter back to the big screen.

Conceived as entertainment above all, the reboot uses everything that worked in the first one: Gruff camaraderie, gross-out kills and slabs of cheese. There are misses — portraying an autistic child as the next step in evolution is wince-inducing), but this new chapter uses and expands the Predator mythology (the two first entries are referenced) without losing sight of the fun. Even better: no xenomorphs in sight!

The film starts as a different kind of sci-fi: a spaceship crash-lands in Mexico after eluding a larger vessel in hot pursuit. The first one to reach it is a special forces veteran (Boyd Holbrook, Logan) who has the brilliant idea of ransacking the ship and sending his findings home. When his son (Jacob Tremblay, Room) unwittingly triggers a tracking device that puts him on the radar of the hunter, his only hope is that his dad and a group of angry men with military training arrive in time to confront the predator that’s coming for him.

One of the smartest things The Predator does is placing the titular character in different scenarios than ones we’re used to — close quarters, suburbia, space — as well as the environments we’ve seen him in. The misfits (including Thomas Jane, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, and Keegan-Michael Key) are a particularly enjoyable bunch and keep things light in spite of the carnage.

There’s a boys’ club vibe that explains the cast’s poor reaction to Olivia Munn’s denunciation of a sex offender in the cast (the scenes with the  actor in question were deleted). The Predator is Shane Black’s baby, for better and for worse.