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Predator
Tonight's Feature Presentation

PREDATOR (1987)

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall

Written By: Jim Thomas, John Thomas Directed By: John McTiernan

The Short Version

Predator is one of the great sci-fi/action hybrids.

Awesome cast, and someone remembered to give their badass characters just a little depth.

The “Predator Vision” POV and accompanying sounds effects prove very effective.

Very well directed, and stuff goes “boom” in wonderful fashion.

Predator is a classic.  If you dig action – hell, if you’re a man – you have to have this.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MELTED CHEDDAR.

It’s hot in that damn jungle.


Pairs Well With...

DOS EQUIS AMBER.

I don’t always get hunted down by ass kicking aliens in the jungle, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.  Actually, I run like hell, but hey.  Just watch the movie and enjoy your beer!

“This stuff’ll make you into a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”


This one’s an easy call: Predator kicks ass.  Indeed, Predator is one of the great ass kicking movies of all time.  The disc case for a copy of Predator is actually a camouflaged can of whoop ass.  Just picking it up is like taking a testosterone hit.  Chick flicks set next to it at the video store wake up the next day finding themselves transformed into Rambo and Commando just from being in the neighborhood.  Chuck Norris looks at this movie and whimpers.  Oh yes, folks, it is that badass.

Unless you’ve been cowering under a rock since 1987, you probably know the story already.  A team of Special Forces badasses is sent out into the jungles of some nameless Latin American hellhole to rescue some hostages from the bad guys.  Along the way, they discover what’s left of the team that came before them, gutted and skinned.  Undaunted, our dudes keep going and do the mission anyway.  It turns out that there never were any hostages, but the CIA tends to neglect mention of these things when they want something blown up and a rescue team happens to have the best men available to do it.  On the way back, though, the team has to face the enemy that skinned their predecessors: an alien hunter so badass that even all of these dudes combined may not be up to his challenge…

Let’s face it, folks, that’s got to be some serious badassedness, and it is.  Let’s look now at the enemy, standing in the Champion’s Corner as of the start of this film:

The Predator. (Kevin Peter Hall, Highway to Hell)  One of the two most incredibly designed aliens in motion picture history, and the most amazing creature ever to come out of Stan Winston’s hop, which is saying a lot.  He is the ultimate combination of primal hunter and outer space whoop ass.  He’s got high tech camouflage that lets him become all but invisible, but he’s also not afraid to come out and fight in the open against a worthy enough opponent.  He’s also got rules, and he plays by them.  Noncombatants are off limits; if you’re not armed, you’re not fair game.  The Predator may be monstrous, but he isn’t a monster.  In his own way, he’s a noble warrior.  There’s depth behind that makeup, and one of the things that makes Predator so great as a film is that the audience gets to see that, even if only in glimpses and flashes.  (Oh, and he’s also so awesome that Jean-Claude Van Damme is his uncredited effects double.  No kidding.)


Meanwhile, in the Challenger’s Corner, we have our Testosterone-Laden Hostage Rescue Team and pals, featuring:

Dutch.  (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator)  Yeah, that's right.  It’s the Governator right at the peak of his action prime.  He’s tough, he’s smart, and he’s honorable, making him a perfect match for the Predator, even though even Dutch can’t claim to be as big.  When it comes down to being just Dutch against the alien hunter – c’mon, you knew it would – it’s something that you can actually believe, and with how tough the film has already made the Predator, that’s saying a lot.

Dillon.  (Carl Weathers, Rocky)  As if the Governator wasn’t enough, Apollo Freakin’ Creed is right behind him.  Dillon may be a double-crossing asshole from the CIA, but his idea of a handshake with his old buddy Dutch is an instant arm wrestling match, and he can still bench press a large tree.

Blain.  (Jesse Ventura, The Running Man)  Why stop with one Governor when you can kick even more ass with two?  Give this dude a handheld Gatling gun named “Painless,” and he’s ready to party.  He ain’t got time to bleed.

Mac.  (Bill Duke, Exit Wounds)  He’s so smooth that he dry shaves 24/7 for fun.  When he sees his best friend go down, his reaction is to pick up a gun and mow down enough trees with it to qualify as a major source of deforestation.  Mr. Cool’s gonna get his revenge or die tryin’; of that you can be sure.

Hawkins.  (Shane Black, the dude who wrote Lethal Weapon, for cryin’ out loud!)  Don’t let the Coke bottle glasses fool you.  This radio man knows more pussy jokes than Hugh Hefner, and if he can hang with and earn the respect of these other badasses, then he’s obviously carrying more weight than just the radio in his backpack.  Just ask the bad guys he smokes in the jungle.

Billy.  (Sonny Landham, 48 Hrs.)  What’s a culturally diverse rescue team with a musclebound Native American tracker?  Not only can he tell you how many people went which way over the past forty-eight hours and what they had for breakfast each day, but he’s also so badass that he’s willing to go mano-a-mano with the Predator with no body armor and just a knife in his hand.  I don’t care if it’s a losing proposition or not; that takes balls.

Poncho.  (Richard Chaves, Night Eyes 2)  Hey, someone’s got to keep these dudes in line aside from the boss, and the point man here’s the one to do it.  Blain may not have time to bleed, but Poncho reminds him that he’d better have time to duck.  And hey, if the rest of these dudes are willing to let you lead the way, then you’ve obviously got something other than just organizational skills to bring to the party.


And tagging along…

Anna.  (Elpidila Carillo, Seven Pounds)  She may be their prisoner, but she’s no fool.  Her people have encountered the Predator before, and when she has the chance to escape from our heroes, she’s smart enough to stick with them as her best chance of survival, and tough enough to help haul logs while Mr. CIA stands off to the side whining.


Just look up there.  How do you beat an action cast like that?  Until the coming of The Expendables, you don’t.  Two Governors.  Apollo Creed.  Bill Duke.  This team is stacked.

But what’s more, this team has more than just one dimension, and that’s important.  Predator moves at a lightning pace – it’s pretty well impossible to find a better paced action flick than this – and as such, it doesn’t have a whole lot of time for pleasantries, but nevertheless, it allows for just enough moments to gives its characters depth and show that they’re not just one-dimensional killing machines.  Dutch is a man of integrity.  Dillon puts patriotism over friendship.  Mac holds friendship in highest regard.  Even the Predator has a code of honor that he won’t break.  It would have been easy to take a bunch of anonymous guys whose names are easy to forget and let them have at it, but Predator takes advantage of its necessary breathers between the action and lets the guys be human beings.  It makes a huge difference when they go down.

Also making a huge difference is John McTiernan (Die Hard) in the director’s chair.  He paces the action perfectly, and takes maximum advantage of the combined openness and claustrophobia of the deep jungle.  When the shit hits the fan, he knows how to push all the right buttons to make it look awesome, and when there’s a break in the action, he knows how to keep the tension riding high.  A lot of movies advertise themselves with the BS blurb of “edge of your seat action,” but thanks to John McTiernan, Predator is one of the few flicks that actually delivers on that promise.

McTiernan also take wonderful advantage of an old school trick from both slashers and traditional horror movies.  In horror, the longer you can go without showing the monster, the more tension you can potential create.  In a slasher flick, it’s more fun if you don’t get to see the killer right away, even though you want to know what he’s up to.  McTiernan takes these lessons to heart and waits a long time before allowing the audience a good look at the Predator, and even when he does, it’s by degrees, not allowing the audience a full view until the third act.  Meanwhile, though, the audience still gets to see what the Predator’s up to and get some idea of what he’s about, thanks to the slasher trick of using the “Killer POV” camera.  Indeed, Predator gets to take this trick to the next level, because our alien hunter uses a high tech helmet to see the world through the infrared spectrum, and that’s what we get to see through his point of view.  The effects on this, though comparatively simple to execute, are fantastically realized, and they’re further enhanced by the accompanying audio cues that combine high tech tracking sounds animalistic clicks, so that when it all comes together, what you end up with are some of the most memorable POV shots in film history.

And finally, what’s a tough guy action flick without tough guys looking tough and action that kicks ass?  What Dillon calls “Boy Scout stuff” combined with stunts like Dutch lifting a pickup truck of a set of blocks by himself more than establishes the group’s tough guy cred, and the action is just some of the best filmed boom-boom stuff you’re likely to see.  At the end of the day, Predator just kicks ass, plain and simple, and very few movies before or since have shown themselves to be its equal at that task.

Bottom line, Predator is regarded as a classic for a reason.  It does everything right, from the tough guy hero cadre to one of the most unforgettable action opponents in motion picture history.  It sets a lightning pace without putting the audience on overload, and delivers the action goods in spectacular, testosterone-laden fashion.  It’s also the kind of entertaining popcorn that demands to be watched over and over again.  If you are any kind of action fan at all, you need to own Predator, plain and simple.  And if you’ve got a “Y” chromosome and you don’t own this flick, someone may be over in little while to take away your man card.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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