Should I Watch..? 'Predator 2' (1990)
What's the big deal?
Predator 2 is an action sci-fi film released in 1990 and is the sequel to the 1987 film Predator. Like the first film, it features an alien hunter who kills for sport but this time, it has appeared in a dystopian view of LA in the near future where it's pitted against a cop trying to solve the Predator's gruesome murders and Government agents eager to capture it. Written by creators Jim and John Thomas, the film sees Kevin Peter Hall reprise as the Predator and he is joined by Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades and Maria Conchita Alonso. The film was notable for not having star of the first film Arnold Schwarzenegger return to the franchise and also the negative reaction when it was released. These days it is viewed as something of a cult classic and ultimately, it paved the way for both the film Predators in 2010 as well as the Alien Vs Predator series of comics, novels and movies.
What's it about?
In 1997, LA is suffering both a violent gang war between Jamaican and Colombian drug cartels as well as a stifling heat wave. As a shoot out ensues between the police and one such gang, an invisible Predator alien observes from the rooftops. When the Colombians retreat into a building to regroup, the Predator crashes through a skylight and slaughters the lot of them. When Lieutenant Mike Harrigan bursts in to confront the Colombians, he discovers the scene and is immediately confused by the Predator's invisible haze.
Returning back to base, Harrigan and his partners Danny Archuleta and Leona Cantrell are introduced to DEA Agent Peter Keyes who heads of a taskforce investigating the cartels as well as recently transferred officer Jerry Lambert. But as they dig deeper into what happened, the Predator itself is moving through the city killing anyone in its way and before long, it strikes at the very heart of Harrigan's team. Can Harrigan survive his encounter with the creature and what exactly is Keyes' purpose?
What's to like?
While Arnie may have been the star of Predator (if not Jesse Ventura's minigun), it is the performance of Hall that takes centre stage here. This new Predator, with a wider selection of fancy toys to play with, is allowed to go absolutely mental in the action scenes with blood spraying from numerous victims and spinal cords being ripped out with reckless abandon. There's also an attempt to make him scarier - which broadly works, despite the viewer being familiar with the Predator because of the first film. The massacre on the subway train, with its strobe lighting, is an excellent piece of action horror as passengers are torn apart by fleeting glimpses of this killing machine. I also liked the attempts to flesh out the Predator character a bit more by providing it with a past.
As for the human cast, Glover has had plenty of practise as a cop out of his depth thanks to the Lethal Weapon series and it's actually difficult to separate the character of Harrigan from Murtaugh. Blades and Alonso are more interesting but aren't given enough time to make much of an impact with their characters. The film's pace keep the tension ratcheted up nicely and director Hopkins demonstrates an unnerving flair when it comes to shooting scenes of violent, bloody murder. It's more visceral than its predecessor, almost as though its played for laughs.
- Ruben Blades was giving a live TV interview to Good Morning America from the set. During the interview, director Hopkins walked into frame and loudly ordered Blades to get back to work. The incident was so embarrassing that both Blades and Hopkins gave another interview days later to apologise.
- The Predator costume had to be covered in squibs containing "Predator blood" which was actually KY Jelly coloured using the fluid in glow sticks.
- At one point, both Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze were attached to play Glover's part. Swayze was unable to accept after being injured filming Road House while Hopkins refused to allow Seagal to audition.
What's not to like?
OK, minor niggles first. Paxton's character and performance are totally unnecessary, Busey does his usual bad-guy routine and the film's story doesn't give support for a movie of this length. The film quickly degenerates into your standard horror movie cliché where the audience bets on which cast member the killer will get to next - fine for the likes of Scream but such tactics don't belong in a Predator movie. The final climatic battle goes on for way too long and given the wildly different skills and strengths of the combatants, also should have been much more one-sided. And while Hall's performance is top class, this new Predator is a bit of a goofball as he makes mistakes and misjudgements that the first film's creature would never have done.
But the worse thing for me is that for such a memorable creation as the Predator is, this film has the audacity to reduce it into a fairly generic shooter with sci-fi leanings. I never bought into the concept like I did with with the first film and after a while, I got bored. The first film worked because you never really saw the creature fully until the final reel whereas Predator 2 happily throws gore and dismemberment at the viewer until you feel saturated in it. There was little tension in the picture and little sense by the time the slightly silly ending arrived. Frankly, I wished I was back in the jungle with Arnold.
Should I watch it?
Only if you're wondering why it took twenty long years to resurrect the character after this. Predator 2 isn't a bad film as such but because it makes some bad decisions along the way, it is nowhere near as thrilling or entertaining as the first film. It's a mildly diverting way of keeping bloodthirsty viewers satisfied for a couple of hours but certainly not what I call a classic.
Great For: gore lovers, people who cheer for the bad guy
Not So Great For: fans of the first film, action fans, cynical viewers
What else should I watch?
Given the mixed reception that Predators received when it was eventually released, it's safe to say that the best film featuring the dread-locked death dealer would be the original Predator. Subverting the gung-ho action movies of the Eighties by throwing in a heavy sci-fi leaning, the film keeps things quiet and tense as a small team of elite Special Forces ops are tracked and targeted by an alien in the jungle. Schwarzenegger gives a commanding performance as Dutch (which is sorely lacking from Predator 2) and the film still counts as one any serious action fan should watch.
Of course, there are two other movies featuring the Predators that I've neglected to mention due to them not being considered canon. Alien Vs Predator and its sequel might have made a bit more at the box office than either Predator movie but neither particularly set the world alight either. As a result, I'm wary of any movie crossover - Freddy Vs Jason underlined that for me...
Lt. Mike Harrigan
Det. Danny Archuleta
Special Agent Peter Keyes
Det. Jerry Lambert
Maria Conchita Alonso
Det. Leona Cantrell
Kevin Peter Hall
The Predator *
Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Release Date (UK)
3rd May, 1991
Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
© 2015 Benjamin Cox