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-[Film Reviews]-, Hollywood, NORTH AMERICAN CINEMA

‘Predator 2’ (1990): Review

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Directed by: Stephen Hopkins || Produced by: Joel Silver, Lawrence Gordon, John Davis

Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas || Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi

Music by: Alan Silvestri || Cinematography by: Peter Levy || Editing by: Mark Goldblatt, Bert Lovitt || Country: United States || Language: English

Running Time: 118 minutes

Much like Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator (2004) and David Fincher’s Alien 3 (1992), Stephen Hopkins’ sequel to the 1987 muscle-bound commando classic is a film that has risen substantially in my eyes in recent months. I now view the film as a misunderstood project, undeserving of the negative rap it has received over the years. While it’s hard to compare this outing to the original, I vastly prefer Hopkins’ envisioning of a Predator sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s more recent attempt, Predators (2010), and that’s mainly because the writing for this film is done by John and Jim Thomas, the screenwriters of the original 1987-movie.

danny-glover-as-lieutenant-mike-harrigan predator 2

Danny Glover takes over the helm for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the sequel. He’s got a ton on his plate right from the movie’s opening.

As far as adding to and expanding upon the source material, Predator 2 does more than most sequels to make a unique, novel experience out of its adventure, at least with regard to its setting and premise. The Brothers’ Thomas decision to abandon the isolated jungle setting of Central America used by the first film and instead opt for the urban jungle of then future-1997 Los Angeles was probably the right idea. While the choice feels odd at first with no sense of isolation for the central characters and constant exposure to the hustle and bustle of an urban metropolis, the Thomas brothers do a good job of getting the most of the city environments and making the characters feel cut off from the rest of society during the action sequences. It’s also interesting to see the Predator hunt in a different environment.

The film is also an interesting sci-fi-thriller inversion of a cop drama or crime film, much in the same way that the first Predator was a sci-fi-thriller subversion of an action film. All the basic elements of a buddy cop-movie are in place, from the renegade, loose-cannon protagonist who never follows the rules (a competent Danny Glover), to the police chief who’s sick and tired of reigning in said loose cannon (Robert Davi), to the cocky rookie officer who’s way out of his league (Bill Paxton). The film follows the exact routine of a cop drama like a Lethal Weapon (1987, also starring Glover) or a Dirty Harry (1971), minus a few brief point-of-view shots from the Predator’s heat-vision. It keeps with the trend of the first film in disguising its true genre-blend identity until later in the film, but the guise still feels refreshing because it’s taking place in a different setting.

The only problem with this approach is that there’s not much tension or suspense with the reveal of the Predator (which comes far too early in the film to have much of an impact anyway). This is where the sequel does make the same mistake that most sequels do in adhering too closely to the original formula for a fraction of the payoff. The audience already knows what to expect. A large part of the film’s central conflict and Glover’s drive is to discover the identity of this “new player in town” who keeps slaughtering members of both warring gangs, and then later the police. Yet, like I said, there’s hardly any suspense here because we already know who it is and what’s going on!

predator 2 montage

Some great shots from the most memorable, terrifying sequence in the film; note the expert use of atmospheric lighting.

That being said, the Thomas brothers deserve credit for writing a main character that once again has personality and charisma. Danny Glover’s Mike Harrigan, LAPD police officer, is likable and far more interesting than any of cardboad cutouts we were presented with in Predators. Equal amounts of praise should go to Glover, whose trademark career personas of either a cop (the Lethal Weapon series) or an angry crazy-person (Angels in the Outfiled [1994]) mold together well. I’m glad he took the role seriously.

The same praise can’t be said for the rest of the cast, although I think that’s largely due to the actors’ overracting rather than Jim and John’s writing. Both members of Glover’s squad, Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton, can’t seem to handle their ordinary lines and give awkward performances. Paxton’s distractingly annoying presence as the intended comic relief is surprising given his famous performance in Aliens (1986).

The rest of the supporting characters are either annoying or uninteresting as well. Every member of the two clashing gangster tribes is an R-rated cartoon character. Both the over-coked, Scarface (1983)-ripoff/Colombian drug cartel enforcers, featuring El Scorpio, and their “Jamaican Voodoo Posse” reefer-smoking opponents, featuring King Willie (Calvin Lockhart), are too much to take seriously. Gary Busey is alright as the special government agent sent to secretly capture the Predator, but he’s not given much to do in the script.

With all that said, Predator 2 has much going for it. Some set-pieces are incredibly well done, such as the subway massacre and the duel inside a remote slaughterhouse. Moments like watching Alonso walk slowly to the back of a subway car, gun in hand, while the dead silence of a darkened tunnel echo all around her, and an alien menace stalks her from out of site, are genuinely intense moments. The set-piece inside the aforementioned slaughterhouse about two thirds through the story is the highlight of the film, and a masterwork of suspense. The creative use of lighting and blocking are particularly commendable and make for a vintage Predator-experience. The scenes following the slaughterhouse sequence continue to build suspense and offer several fun surprises and false-endings along the way. If the rest of movie were as intense and well orchestrated as its final act, Predator 2 would be a fantastic movie.

Other commendable aspects of the movie are its considerable expansions to the Predator lore, which include several new weapons, some retooling of the Predator helmet and armor, and the (spoiler) revelation that the Predators are a clan-based society that have been hunting humans on earth for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Predator 2 also cannonized the idea of Predators hunting many different species of prey, showcased in a cool trophy case that included (what else?) a Xenomorph skull, and made an obvious nod to the graphic novel-mashup released a year earlier.

Predator 2 is a prototypical sequel in many ways, but is also quite original in just as many aspects. It’s far from a poor film, although it’s sometimes painful to think how a few adjustments could have made it so much better. All in all, I wouldn’t heartily recommend this film to moviegoers who aren’t fans of the franchise or the original, but if you are in any way attached to the Predator mythology and 20th Century Fox’s creature lore, it’d be unfortunate to pass up. Despite its unevenness and comparisons to the classic original, Predator 2 is a violent, memorable, and worthy sequel.

predator 2 trophy case

The haunting music and eerie atmosphere make the buildup to the trophy case-reveal intense.

————————————————————————-

SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Predator 2 is a sequel that tries, tries, and tries some more — and more often than not, succeeds at being a good sequel to a great movie. The final act is mightily impressive, leaving you to wonder how good the movie could have been if the rest of the film had been of that same caliber. The low-key blue lighting, intense build up, and bloody carnage inside the slaughterhouse is as white-knuckle as anything in the first movie. The expansions to the Predator mythology are creative, sensible, and welcome. Danny Glover is a fine protagonist who’s more than capable of going toe to toe with the titular baddie.

However… much of the rest of the cast leave much to be desired. Way too many characters are either uninteresting or comical caricatures. The detective work by Glover and company to uncover the identity of the Predator isn’t suspenseful given how the audience already knows what’s going on, and the anticipation of the characters catching up isn’t filmed in a way that keeps us excited.

—> RECOMMENDED

? Glover, seriously, if you are ever in any doubt, just shoot the motherfucker in the face and keep shooting until you know he’s dead.

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About The Celtic Predator

I love movies, music, video games, and big, scary creatures.

Discussion

19 thoughts on “‘Predator 2’ (1990): Review

  1. I want to see the creature that belongs to the skull on the far left 😀

    Posted by Tim The Film Guy | November 19, 2013, 4:10 pm
  2. hey, I’ve seen the movie again a while back.

    Accually I loved it. Sure it wasn’t as mysterious as the first because, like you said, the Predator already revealed himself very early in the film. Still it was intriguing to me…

    The thing that I liked the most was how well they showed the city of LA as a jungle on its own. There was chaos and crime all over the place…. I don’t know, in that sense it delivered. I also remembered a very explicit scene where you could see a couple banging each other on their appartment. The funny thing was that they had sex while everyone could see them because the appartment was all window.
    I liked how they dared to take it on the egde, because of that it was if LA looked like a sin city kind of thing.

    What I want to say is, when Predator comes to the city of LA, it looks like he’s sort of a demon/archangel who comes for the “bad” people (reaper? don’t know the word exactly) and I like the idea. It’s like they give you a message sort of: if you go bad, Predator skins you alive ;).

    The negative thing is that it indeed drags towards the end. The chase for predator by Glover also becomes a bit hilarious once the predator crasht into an old coulpes appartement. In the first film it nicely removes the mystery of the predator while in this sequel you already know who he is…

    Still it’s worth a watch if you are into sci fi horror films

    Posted by Dries | April 22, 2014, 3:30 pm
    • That’s an interesting observation about the Predator being some sort of wrath of God or a punisher of sinful behavior. It fits the bill given how most if not all the Pred’s victims engage in violent behavior and kill other people, even if they are cops. The creature is definitely referenced in both films as being a sort of otherwordly force that destroys man, or as Anna said in the first film, “The demon who makes trophies of man.” Definitely adds even more to the creep factor behind the predators.

      I actually loved the final act of the film the most, although I agree that the old couples apartment section was silly and the comic relief didn’t fit. I just wish the rest of the film had been as intense as the slaughterhouse scene. This film is still good, which we can agree on, but it’s not outstanding like original. It’s really only a must-see if your’re already a predator or creature-feature fan.

      Posted by The Celtic Predator | April 23, 2014, 5:05 pm
  3. Yeah there’s more we can discuss here about the movie. I liked to ending too. They still had that mystery around the identity of the predator. Sure we already know him in the movie, but yet they managed to show another glimps of it, they showed that they crashed with a space ship, that they have skulls as trophies (we already knew it but now we finally saw it) and that there are more of them…

    And at the end Danny Glover was standing a bit like Schwarzenegger at the end of the first. “What the **** was that?”. Both caracters caught a glimps of a strange alien culture.

    Like I said, it was still very intruiging to me. it’s almost like a biology mystery. All you want to know is ,what is it, or better said “what the hell are you” lol?

    And yeah it really looks like some wrath of God isn’t? I like how thin the line is between myth and accual creature.

    Also the beginning I liked very much. Even in the sequel they did a good job with keeping the predator very mysterious until it shows up. Also like the first film, they did a good thing with starting the movie with a plot where there is not a Predator at all (war in Streets against Jamaicans and Glover and guys must stop it). Very smart! It’s a trick of diversion as you can call it. It sets up one storyline and in the mean time the Predator is almost litteraly sneaking into the storyline. In predator 2 it was maybe less subtle but still worked with me. Even the first moment you saw a naked dead body hanging up onto the ceiling was still frightening to watch…even when I already knew what it meant…

    I still love this movie more then Predators. Why? Because I think the Danny Glover team is still way more likable then the Adrien Brody “bunch” (I don’t call that a team). You care a lot more for them then the bunch in predators. The main character is also going to a major struggle like Arnold S. IN predators Adrien B looks like he’s having no struggle at all, or yeah he got hit once by a super(!!) Predator. No one cares about a character if he thinks he’s perfect, because we identify with people who can be afraid and have flaws…that’s just how most people are.

    Also, unlike in predators I did have a feeling they EXPAND the universe of predator a bit. Instead of telling a whole backstory like in Predators, they mostly SHOWED us what this Predator does, and like I said, the ending was also a good example of SHOW don’t TELL mentality. Just let Danny glover look around and explore for himself so we can all see it what he discovered.

    Yep, I know I like repeating myself but it still is a very interesting franchise. It’s maybe THE best monster horror sci fi monster movie (1 &2) ever made.

    So what do you guys think? Any more observations about this flick?

    Posted by Dries | April 25, 2014, 1:12 pm
  4. Sure,

    I start with the very first Alien from Ridley Scott. I think it was a good movie, but not that it really hyped me into it. It was a scary slacher story in space, no more no less for me. So it wasn’t that it really sucked me into the franchise. I don’t know exactly why, there wasn’t that much to it I found. The creature was original, but for the rest it just didn’t blew my mind.

    Aliens did hype me into it. I won’t go into every detail because everything is in your review. Aliens was (is!) exciting, scary, gory, funny, intruiging…it was a feast to watch. From the first time I saw it until even today. Aliens was just so much more interesting on almost evert level.

    Now, in comparison with the Predator franchise…let’s say in which order I like all those movies the most

    1.Predator
    2. Aliens
    3.Predator 2
    4.Alien

    The rest of the franchise (Alien 3, Predators, AVP…) I won’t mention because it are those 4 that I remember as the true franchise. It’s hard to compare it with each other. For my personal choice I will Always love the first predator the most out of all the Predator/alien movies. Why? Because the movie is in a way very to the point, even called simple, but in this simplicity lies a very suble and clever way of introducing an anatagonist. I don’t recall any other film where this was done so subtle and surprising. They simplye give one opening shot in space for introducing it’s menace and that’s it…no boring prologue or anything like that. So simple yet so effective!

    Even today I can’t fully explain (of course I try to) why it works so incredebly well. The surprise effect when the first member of the team falls (after a half an hour) is just so great. And at that’s just the beginning…

    Then we have the movie Aliens. It’s my number two, but to be honest it’s very on par with Predator. I love it because its similarities with predator. The team is lovable, the shock when you see the whole town is destroyed by aliens, the horror when you see the first little alien bursting out of his/her chest…and of course the queen alien. like Predator I can’t say a negative thing about it. But why I like it less then predator? I think it’s the setting. The setting in Aliens looks just a little more unreal and dark to me then in predator. In Predator the setting was on earth in a real jungle and with a real (ok fictional but still more real) commando team. That’s why I think it was more effective to me because it was if the story was in a way more realistic then Aliens…I think that’s the only thing why I score Predator just a little notch higher. Aliens was just a bit more fantasy like, which resulted into just a notch more disbelieve…

    So there you have it. That’s why Predator scores higher in general with me, it is more earth like, while Aliens finds himself more in the twilight realms…

    Posted by Dries | April 29, 2014, 2:30 pm

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