“The Predator”

 

            If you aren't into sci-fi, forget it, you won't like it, anyway.  If you dislike screen violence, this one's not for you.  If you want romantic comedy, look elsewhere.  This one is a pure action film from the first frame.

            The first frame, by the way, introduces the main character, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), who is an Army sniper in the middle of an assigment.  In fact, he has the target in his cross hairs when suddenly there's a big disturbance in the jungle around him, because a spaceship has crashed, and some alien creature has gone on a rampage, killing the rest of McKenna's team.  McKenna manages to lay low until the space alien has left, leaving behind a helmet and some kind of forearm armor, which McKenna decides to ship to his personal P.O. Box for safekeeping.  Except the package winds up at his house, where his son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), opens it out of sheer curiosity.

            Rory is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but also a boy genius, who quickly figures out how to access the visual technology, but what he doesn't realize is that this also alerts the alien, who heads toward Rory to retrieve his equipment. 

            Director and co-writer Shane Black utilizes the tried-and-true method of Halloween trick or treating, to enable Rory to wear the helmet and partial “spacesuit” without raising anyone's suspicion.  Oh, and Rory also gets to give some neighborhood bullies their comeuppance.  His Mom (Yvonne Strahovski) is oblivious to all this, and is also estranged from Quinn, but that doesn't keep her from defending him when some unnamed government agents show up at her doorstep.

            Yes, the government apparently knows about these aliens, but they are keeping it all under wraps in order not to distress the ignorant populace (and also to keep the research secrets to themselves, which will resonate with all government-conspiracy enthusiasts).  Quinn, meanwhile, gets detained and thrown in with a bunch of soldiers labelled as psycho misfits, loosely led by a guy named Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), who initially laugh at him when he tells them about his encounter with a space alien.  But of course once “The Predator” shows up, they're not laughing anymore.  In fact, they become Quinn's allies, which he needs if he's going to save his son and the rest of the world besides.

            Director Black keeps the action going, with little glimpses of character development in between.  There's a scientist, Dr. Bracket (Olivia Munn), who at first isn't enamored with Quinn's little band of misfits (particularly the one with Tourette's Syndrome who keeps spitting out expletives), but she becomes an ally, as well, because she's the one who understands the aliens well enough to actually befriend their beast-dog (it seems he likes to play “go fetch”).  In between all the whizzing bullets, there's something about a smaller Predator trying to show them how to defeat the larger one.  We have more governmental interference, until finally, after so many casualties, they decide they better team up with Quinn or none of them are going to survive the carnage.

            Yes, it barely makes enough sense for the story to skate along the surface while we busy ourselves with constant firefights.  But it's a hard-core action movie for those who are so inclined.  And don't be surprised if popular success leads to another sequel.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association