Los Angeles in the future year of 1997, and gangs led by warring drug barons are plunging the city into chaos. Gun battles between the police and the gangs are all too common, and today the cops are trying to rescue two of their number who have been injured, but the gang members won't let them close. Enter Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover), who stages a daring rescue in the face of near-overwhelming firepower, and forces the gunmen into a nearby building. The lawmen go in after them, despite being ordered not to by the F.B.I., and are shocked to find the bodies of the hoodlums strewn around a top floor room - who or what could have caused this?
The first thing you'll notice about the sequel to Predator is the complete lack of an Arnold Schwarzenegger. For this follow-up, scripted by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, there are no supermen to battle the alien menace, only a team of hassled cops led by Harrigan. Instead of being an impossibly muscular match for the intergalactic assassin, Glover is harrassed, sweaty and frequently out of breath - finally the nineties had brought us an action hero we could relate to. The macho exercise in the jungle of the first film gives way to a hunt around the dangerous streets of L.A., and is all the better for it, with the gang culture easy pickings for the Predator.
The F.B.I. team contrasts with Harrigan's sidekicks, so it's good authorities versus bad authorities with the Feds led by Keyes (Gary Busey), who naturally just has to clash with our protagonist. The plot draws on a background of conflict between Jamaican and Colombian gangs, but when a top ranking member of the Colombians is found hanging dead along with skinned corpses of Jamaicans, it's clear there's someone else involved in the mayhem. We already know who simply by reading the title, but it takes far too long for Harrigan to catch up with the ins and outs of Predator hunting - if only Keyes had told him earlier we might have arrived at the big chase that highlights the last half sooner.
One of Harrigan's partners (and these cops are a multi-ethnic bunch, refreshingly) is Danny (Rubén Blades), who has noticed something at a crime scene, a little bit of Predator hardware, but when he goes to fetch it he is dispatched by the monster fairly swiftly, making this personal for Harrigan. The villain is as impressive as in the previous movie, played again but for the last time by the towering Kevin Peter Hall, and has an array of gadgets to assist him, from the invisible camouflage to a selection of guns and knives. And let's not forget his talent for mimicry, making him the Mike Yarwood of the movie monster world. He's so impressive that Harrigan's efforts to triumph over him are almost too much to take, but Glover's good humour papers over the cracks.
Predator 2 is almost RoboCop, featuring RoboCop as the antagonist, with its police force swamped by serious crime and obnoxious media; the only thing missing is an anti-corporate agenda. There are welcome flashes of drollery, as when Harrigan is picked up by a car belonging to the Jamaicans, and is nearly overcome with ganja smoke, or when overeager cop Jerry (Bill Paxton) spots himself on television under the caption "Police Brutality" and is delighted. But it's the action that really comes alive, with a fight on a subway train and a tense scene in a large freezer to foil the Predator's infra red vision. Once it ends, with the promise of a further sequel, you feel as if you could do with another instalment: it's a moreish film, and not entirely in a good way, as the potential for better opportunities is still there. However, it was a fourteen year wait before the next sequel where the Predators met the Aliens in an extended reference to the throwaway background joke at the finale of this. Music by Alan Silvestri.