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Friday, 5 August 2016

Retro Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Predator 2
Cast: Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Gary Busey, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Kevin Peter Hall
Genre: Sci-Fi Action 
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $54,768,418 

Plot: Los Angeles is enduring a heatwave and a crime wave, so the pressure on police officer, Michael Harrigan (Danny Glover) to solve a strange string of murders is mounting. Harrigan thinks the culprit can be found among the warring gangs and drug cartels, but FBI special agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) knows the horrible truth: their killer is a fearsome extraterrestrial (Kevin Peter Hall) with keen hunting abilities that include superior night vision and the power to make itself invisible 

'Passable Action Sequel With A Slightly More Intriguing Plot-line & Okay Acting To Compensate For The Lack of Arnie'

Predator was such a ground-breaking film for the action genre during the 1980s, it was always going to be a tough act to follow for the successor; released 3 years after the first movie, Predator 2 sees the film's surroundings switch from the South American jungle to the big inner city with the Los Angeles police, as well as the city itself under siege by dangerous drug lords, and later on an extra-terrestrial killing machine known as the Predator who slays, beheads and mutilates its victims to death. The killings draw particular attention to Harrigan and his fellow officers, who further investigate these murders, as the body count surges. 

In this effort, Danny Glover has shown he can more than hold his own in an action movie, without the aid of Mel Gibson, as exemplified in the Lethal Weapon series. Predator 2 was heavily criticised for not having a guy with the build of Arnold Schwarzenegger - say Dolph Lundgren, Sly Stallone - to take his place, but that doesn't matter because I think it is good that we have a different leading protagonist, who though doesn't have the same physical build as Arnie, he can still take on the Predator, head-on by relying on his ingenuity, smarts and wits to outwit his nemesis. Even if it means working just as harder to kill the thing. His character Lieutenant Mike Harrigan is part - Murtagh, but more on the lines of Riggs from Lethal Weapon and is less of a loose cannon: he is a cop who plays by his own rules, which annoys his superiors.       

Fans wanted Schwarzenegger back and duly wanted a movie that was very much like the prequel; instead, we got more of an essentially - plot-driven film and a Predator film that focuses more on the dramatic and story elements, rather than a Predator movie that was action-oriented. As great as Predator was, some of the dialogue but for some of Arnie's lines consisted of mumbling lines and that it had a number of gaping plot holes. However, these were overlooked as the film focused more on the action & of Arnold's character. Glover may have been a dubious choice for many fans who had a hard time buying him as Arnie's so-called 'replacement', but after seeing his performance here, he proved how convincing he can be as a leading action movie star actor. 

The Predator movies are reminiscent to Scream; in one aspect being they are both slasher films but other than that, they are different genres of films with different protagonists, settings, locations, narratives and plots. Some of the special effects are okay and still hold up today. However, the short and meaningless sex scene was lame and pretty much tacked on, just to justify the R rating & that it served no other purpose. Predator 2 is a lot bloodier, gorier and gratuitously violent in tone compared to Predator and given that there is an additional subplot with a Caribbean drug cartel gives it another twist- and the subplot was virtually lacking in the first film. To revert back to the jungle theme (something that Predators did), would be just too predictable and samey. Plus, it would be a clone of Predator but with different characters. 

The creators even gave the Predator more weapons at his disposal, including a new spear, razor-sharp discus & a net gun. The scenes where the Predator spares the life of Leona because she is pregnant provided more insight into the killer's intentions and motivations, which we discover wasn't always malicious. I was a tad disappointed that Maria Conchita Alonso's character was killed off too soon (even though she did have some bad lines); well technically speaking she was about to be killed by the Predator; compared to her turn in The Running Man, her role had a lot of potential. There was no follow-up to her situation, which also beggars the question as to who the father of the child is. If you include a story-line where a woman is pregnant, surely there has to be some indication, hint or mentioning of the potential father. The writers should have still retained her alongside Danny Glover and have those two square off against the Predator for the finale, - which in itself was a bit of a let-down, insofar as to how it ended.

As for the rest of the cast, Gary Busey plays a straight-up chief, Bill Paxton plays exactly the same typecast character as in Aliens and True Lies as the annoying, talkative type, but in all, there were no real standouts. The criminal gangs were also cartoonish in nature & too flat and one-dimensional with no substance; although oddly, their presence in the movie was left untouched and wasn't addressed at all. Characterisation-wise, with Predator 2, but for say the Predator himself, it was a tad improvement over the prequel. We don't know these characters or know anything about them, nor their true motives for wanting to go after the Predator, besides the creature killing people, left, right and centre. It just seems that all the director wants to show is for them to fall foul of the Predator by having them get killed, in the most horrific ways imaginable. Then again, this same argument could also be used when we talk about the original Predator film. 

Despite having an all-new cast, I appreciated that the film tried something new and different and in having different protagonists this time round, it was a nice change to have. But for all of the cast changes, the blood, gore & violence, clearly there was something else that was missing that prevented it from being as good as the first Predator

image credit: Movie Stills DB

The script is not half bad, but still, it isn't great although the pacing is good and the action, though whilst not as strong as the first film, is still solid. The train scene with the commuters alone is utterly riveting and scary at the same time. That darkness, panic and concern strike fear and terror, as they wonder where and when the Predator will strike next, and director Stephen Hopkins really conveyed it well. 

It's worth noting also that both this film, Predator 2 and Robocop 2 were released in exactly the same year back in 1990 and that the original movies also came out in 1987. Bizarrely, Predator 2 is set in 1997, and yet the guns there were used by the cops in the movie didn't or rarely existed in real life in 1997. Just how many police units in America had weapons that virtually looked like the ones in Predator 2?  

But alas, whereas Robocop 2 was a lot more over-the-top, sillier and cornier, Predator 2 still retained that serious and intensely brooding tone of the first film. 

Final Verdict:

This film was trashed by so many and was completely overlooked in favour of the original Predator film, which is still the best in the series. As a film on its own merits, Predator 2 is a modest effort & Danny Glover's performance as an LA cop is certainly amicable. To its credit, Predator 2 is not trying to compare itself against the prequel, but for taking risks and opting for a different route, rather than sticking to the same old formula of its predecessor.  

Despite the thrills and spills, twists and turns galore, a more intriguing plot-line and arguably some modest performances though, Predator 2 is a so-so, average sci-fi action flick that is different in many respects to its prequel, but also keeping in tone with the Predator 'hunter vs hunted' theme that is, as well & as has been, the primary source of the series. The downsides to this film are the mediocre ending, the one-dimension villains besides the Predator character, Leona's unfortunate exit, the distinct absence of characterisation and that it lacks some of the intensity and feeling of the first Predator film.

Predator 2 is more of a 'Scream'- like slasher type movie, coupled with dodgy CGI bits set in a crime/cop thriller context. 

For die-hard fans, this is an adequate or more than adequate - yet at most passable entry to the series, but for other viewers, especially action movie fans, there are plenty of other (superior) offerings available. 

*score last updated: 25 October 2016*


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