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  Predator If It Bleeds, They Can Kill It
Year: 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall
Genre: Horror, Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: One of the stars in the firmament begins to move: it's no star, it's a spacecraft and it has jettisoned a pod that falls into the atmosphere of planet Earth. Soon after, in the jungles of Central America, U.S. soldier cum mercenary Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in an American encampment at the request of General Phillips (R.G. Armstrong). They are pleased to see each other, and Dutch is equally pleased to see old friend Dillon (Carl Weathers) there too - an impromptu arm wrestling match later, Dutch is receiving his orders to hunt down a crashed helicopter and its V.I.P. passenger. But all is not as it seems... there's danger out there.

Apparently inspired by mixing up Alien with The Most Dangerous Game, it was the simplicity of Predator that was its strength, but also its downfall. It's so straightforward that all the business with the enemy base in the first half hour just gets in the way and extends the running time when what you really want to see is Schwarzenegger going head to head with the space alien who wants to kill him and his men. The alien's motives would appear to be purely for sport, but he fights fair in that he won't attack any human who is unarmed, meaning that S.W.A.T. team Dutch is leading is in deep trouble.

Yes, they're so macho that there's no getting away from it, they're a camp bunch. Whether screenwriters John Thomas and James Thomas intended them that way is unclear, but the actors seem to be in competition to see who is the most butch for at least the first half hour. During that time, they track down the crashed 'copter but also three of its occupants strung up and skinned nearby, much to their consternation. Why would anyone go to those lengths? Not even Communists would do that, would they? They then carry out a raid on an army base, like something out of Commando, with plenty of hapless Central Americans sent flying, but it turns out they've been duped and this was the purpose of their mission all along.

And Dillon knew. Dutch is unimpressed with this, and if there's a human baddie in this film it's Dillon, but never mind all that, where's the Predator? As if to put the macho men in their place, it begins picking them off one by one in the time-honoured slasher movie fashion. Yes, there is but one he-man who counts around these jungles, and that's the alien (played in Stan Winston-designed costume by Kevin Peter Hall), but he's reckoned without the invincibility of a certain Mr S. With a prisoner - Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) - in tow, the troops attempt to get to the chopper to lift them all out of there, but there are complications.

Some have noted the similarity between Predator and the cheapo 1980 science fiction thriller Without Warning, but that film is unimpressive compared to the potential realised by director John McTiernan and his team here. Even then, it could have been more imaginative in the plotting, with the characters simply getting into deadly situations and more often than not failing to get out of them. Acting honours go to Bill Duke as Mac, a soldier just as tough as the rest but with hidden depths; if this wasn't such a star-driven vehicle it would have been nice to see him prevail. But it is, and the final showdown between Dutch and his foe is disappointingly routine after the clever handling we've seen leading up to it. Still, Predator's fans still go mad for this one, and there's a Dad's Army "You Have Been Watching" bit at the end to recap the cast. More of that in Hollywood movies would be welcome. Music by Alan Silvestri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John McTiernan  (1951 - )

American producer and director with a flair for action blockbusters. After self-written horror Nomads, he hit the big time with three successes: Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, but after two flops, Medicine Man and Last Action Hero, he returned to familiar territory in Die Hard With A Vengeance. Subsequent films include the troubled The 13th Warrior and two remakes, a fair attempt at The Thomas Crown Affair, and a disastrous one at Rollerball.

 
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