Back in 1987, a bespectacled Shane Black played Hawkins, the first of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s band of burly soldiers to get brutally eviscerated by the dreadlocked alien hunter in nail-biting thrill ride Predator.
If only this was the death of his involvement in a franchise that has rotted from the head down ever since.
Two decades later the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3 takes the helm of The Predator, a dire misfire that proves the franchise’s stinkiest offering yet.
Sexism is rife. Olivia Munn stars as Casey, an evolutionary biologist tapped by a shady US military research outfit but who displays a Prometheus-level lack of scientific rigour.
She’s also required to strip naked for a decontamination scene, despite no one wearing respiratory masks.
Then there’s the room full of leering soldiers led by poor Schwarzenegger substitute Boyd Holbrook (better in Logan). He plays charisma-deficient former military sniper Quinn, an ex-military sort turned mercenary who encounters the monster in Mexico.
Back in the US, he’s promptly picked up for a grilling by army intelligence (sorely lacking here) and winds up in a bus full of incarcerated soldiers dubbed “the loonies”.
They include Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes (works the infamous Arnie gun flex), Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen (abysmal Irish accent wisely under-utilised) and Key and Peele star Keegan-Michael Key, who does his level best not to take it too seriously.
These guys creep on Casey while she’s unconscious in a scene brazenly set up with a ‘joke’ about what might happen in such company.
— Predator (@Predator) August 31, 2018
This is all the ickier given Munn’s treatment behind the scenes. Discovering that Black hired his friend Steven Wilder Striegel, a registered sex offender, she raised it with the studio and got his scene cut.
Her male co-stars, barring Jacob Tremblay who plays Quinn’s autism spectrum son Rory, ditched her on the promotional circuit, only apologising after she called them on it and the subsequent social media backlash.
Rory, who can instantly absorb and adopt alien tech, doesn’t even blink when he accidentally kills a man with a predator mask’s laser, or when his dad calmly skewers a guy through the eye in front of him.
Quinn’s estranged wife, played by Yvonne Strahovski, is forgotten about pretty quick.
A running gag about the name “Gaylord” means there’s more homophobia here than in the way less offensive original, surprisingly.
Adding very little that’s original, Black’s best hope was to bring out the big guns alongside the newbies, a la Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Schwarzenegger was offered a cameo but declined, apparently because the role was too small, but more likely due to Black and RoboCop 3 scribe Fred Dekker’s toxic dude bro script (that, and the former California governor is too busy filming yet another Terminator reboot).
Black Panther’s Sterling K Brown admirably chews the scenery as a bad army boss, but little else lands.
Dull, directionless and dubious, the best we could hope for was an epic gorefest, but Black can’t even get this right.
Staggeringly bad computer graphics (with digital blood) mean the leaden action sequences are the only laugh-provoking element here.
The skinned and dismembered bodies in the original were way more convincing. Download it on iTunes instead, because this one’s an alien dog’s dinner.