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The plot of "Predator" is a bit thicker than one might expect from a science fiction film of this type. Also, the level of tension begins rapidly, with the aid of Alan Silvestri's edgy musical score.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer) and his small, lethal band of ultra-elite military professionals are approached by Carl Weathers (George Dillon) who plays a CIA operative, to rescue a presidential cabinet minister somewhere in Central South America. Weathers, an old friend of Arnold, basically tells him a bald-faced lie that the objective (for which his team has been hand picked) is to rescue an american dignitary being held hostage.
Weathers also tells Arnold that he would be accompanying his team on the mission, to which Arnold is reluctant to consent, saying that he and his men always work alone. To no one's pleasure, Weathers is allowed to join Arnold and his band of hard-asses. Arnold is especially displeased by discovering there will not be a back-up -- should they need it.
In the Jungle
Before long the crew propel themselves from helicopters into an area with dense tree cover. Once on the ground Weathers maps out a destination, and they begin an arduous journey through the thick underbrush.
Their first discovery is a downed helicopter hanging in the tree tops. There is blood but no bodies as surmised by Richard Chaves (Jorge "Poncho" Ramirez). The party seemingly belonged to a special operations group. Weathers swears he is unaware of any other mission in the area. They move on.
Their next discovery is finding the bloody remains of the special ops team. Their bodies have been completely skinned, and their carcases left hanging upside down from the limb of a tree. Their dog tags either remain on their necks or are easily located on the ground below them. Arnold is convinced that Weathers is not telling him everything he knows, but Weathers denies any knowledge of any other mission. Arnold and his team are left to contemplate why the local guerrillas would have skinned the men.
Meanwhile we see that the group is being followed and observed by something unknown but with the capacity to view them through various imagining lenses. We are also given the impression that the entity is either capable of full or partial invisibility. It picks up pieces of human dialogue and plays them repeatedly for purposes unknown -- intermixed with its own clicks and gurgles.
Arnold's team plus Weathers finally locate the guerrilla camp and a couple of CIA captives -- one of which is killed by a Russian "advisor," for reasons we can only speculate. Arnold Schwarzenegger's group plus Weathers storm the camp with a tremendous amount of firepower.
Everyone in the camp is wiped out except for a young woman named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) who is not much of an asset as she supplies the team with no information and slows them down with stumbling, deliberately tripping and even using force to try to escape. On the other hand Weathers reacts as if he won a jackpot. A confrontation occurs between Weathers and Schwarzenegger. Apparently the rescue team has been bluffed by the CIA into believing they were on a short errand to rescue a cabinet minister, but, as it turns out they are thrown into something much larger -- some kind of rescue of CIA agents (now monopolized by Russians), after a former attempt by Green Beret specialists had failed. Once learning this Arnold orders his team out for evacuation.
Arnold orders Shane Black (Hawkins) to arrange the evacuation, but Shane is given the response that a landing would be too dangerous.
At one point along their journey, Anna sees her opportunity to escape -- by clubbing "Poncho" in the head then hoofing it into the deeper forest. Though Anna has a substantial lead, Hawkins is able to catch up with her. Seconds later he is reduced to a bloody mass and we see his corpse being dragged away into the brush. The other members, having separated in their search for Shane, know something lethal is nearby. Blain Cooper (Jesse Ventura) never has a chance -- as the invisible being in the trees blows a hole through his torso.
Mac Elliott (Bill Duke) is not far behind Shane and, catching a glimpse of the creature, begins blasting away blindly into the brush. Arnold, Billy Sold (Sonny Landham) and "Poncho" join in to shoot the hell out of the quadrant of trees and brush in which the creature was last seen. "Poncho" discovered what he thinks are the remains of Shane. Further examination of the area seems to reveal that the massive carpet of firepower the team unleashed left nothing wounded or dead. They realize that no man could have survived their assault. Anna, however, finds a strange, green alien blood on a leaf.
Having been wounded, however, the creature stalking them is not invincible. We see that it must treat a bleed in its leg. It's bellow of pain upon self-administered first-aid is an affirmation that the predator can be wounded and even killed.
At this point, Mac goes into the woods to seek revenge for Blain, the two of whom had been warriors together in many other engagements. Dillon follows after Mac. The predator quickly spots Mac positioned under a log, and sends a blast into his forehead. Dillon is killed a minute later. Arnold, a wounded "Poncho" and Anna drag themselves toward the helicopter's landing coordinates. Billy chooses to lag behind to meet the predator face to face, but his scream seconds later tell us that the matchup was wasted. Seconds after that "Poncho" is zapped by the predator's shoulder weapon.
Anna drops her machine gun, and Arnold tells her not to pick it up, as he has figured out that all of this is a sport/hunting game for the predator. Arnold figures out that being without a weapon makes a subject an unworthy target. With only Anna and Dutch still alive, Dutch tells her to head toward the chopper. Dutch is wounded and knows he would only slow her down. He stays behind and runs, loses his balance, slides down a steep hill overgrown with vegetation, and is helplessly ejected over the side of a huge waterfall.
Dutch manages to survive the fall, and swims to a nearby shore. Moments later he hears a loud splash and discerns the outline of the predator. Dutch crawls inland and tries to stay hidden inside a mangrove -- and this in fact works, despite the predator's heat-sensitive apparatus. The predator comes agonizingly close to Dutch, but Dutch doesn't flinch. Once the predator passes by Dutch, he figures out that the mud covering every inch of his body thwarted the predator's heat sensor.
With this knowledge Dutch believes he can have a final stand with the predator, if he can lure it into a trap-infested location. So, Dutch proceeds to build and set traps for the last confrontation.
I'd like to go on but cannot lest I spoil the conclusion for anyone who may wish to rent/buy the film. The ending is fitting and satisfactory for such gritty, blood-and-guts material.
In my assessment, this is the ultimate man vs. alien film made to date. The predator is the creation of Stan Winston, and is uncannily realistic and terrifying.
Every hard-core science fiction enthusiast must see this motion picture at least once. Rotten Tomatoes rated the film 78% -- an absurdly low assessment.
Somehow, critics got it in their minds very early on that a science fiction adventure cannot constitute a serious motion picture; therefore, the merits of the genre have been severely overlooked. "Predator" is one of those films deserving high marks in every regard. The filming was ridiculously difficult but done all on location. I can see no flaws in the acting performances of anyone involved. In fact they struck me as being more realistic and believable than a lot of Academy nominees and winners -- no kidding. The plot is solid and suspenseful throughout. The filming is superlative, as are the special effects and especially the costuming of the Predator himself. This was a genius-level of film-making whether by design or accident. Kudos to the writers for knowing when enough is enough. The last 20 minutes of the film is almost without any wording at all. It almost all becomes visual at that point and, man, you got to love it.
If you've never seen the picture, and like the genre, you're in for a treat. Upon my first viewing back in 1987, I was on the edge of my seat. I cannot say the same about big, award-winning films that I've seen since this time.
Someone can always capitalize upon the success of an earlier film, and this has been done so much that it's nauseating. Don't try to re-create "Predator" or "Alien." Everyone is aching to see something new, original, daring, wowing. If you don't have a dangerous new idea, get out of the biz. If you don't think your stuff measures up to "Predator," get out of town or try writing journalism. I'm not seeing much new talent -- thus my jaded throw-back.