Don’t get me wrong: The Predator is part of a long line of second–rate reboots used to scrape every dollar out of a good idea like an almost–empty Nutella jar. That being said, this one is worth every penny.
We are first introduced to sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), who loses his squad at the hands of the arriving Predator. He manages to rob the invisible threat of some equipment before narrowly escaping. It’s not a promising start; the setting is similar to the original Predator, and the special effects haven’t changed much either. Somehow Hollywood hasn’t figured out how to realistically portray something you can’t see.
In the following quick succession of sequences, we meet the rest of the major players. McKenna’s son Rory is a young boy genius, able to understand Predator technology as soon as he finds it in his mailbox, shipped from his unwitting father. Sterling K. Brown, from This Is Us, plays the tough–as–nails agent in charge of tracking the Predator. Don’t let his goofy laugh fool you: he can go from eccentric to terrifying on a dime, and he quickly establishes that nothing will stand in his way on his twisted and vaguely defined mission.
Olivia Munn plays Casey Brackett, one of only two women in the film (literally), a scientist enlisted to study the creature though her exact title is unclear. She is introduced in a scene where she somehow has no lines, and it's suggested that she studies astronomy. She is then referred to as having “written the book on evolutionary biology” by another scientist, which I recall Darwin having received credit for. Munn is degraded throughout, being almost constantly hit on by the men she shares the screen with, and at one point, has to undress in order to escape the Predator (watching this happen doesn’t provide any further explanation). Munn, however, plays one of the more nuanced characters, but ultimately is bogged down by carrying the weight of female representation in the movie.
McKenna soon bands with a group of misfit soldiers, each of whom has been placed in “Group 2” for their mental disorders, including suicidal tendencies and Tourette’s. Trevante Rhodes and Keegan–Michael Key are notable for their portrayals of the archetypal leader and funny guy, respectively. The movie is surprisingly tender towards these atypical soldiers, who depend on each other for support because their government has failed them. Make no mistake, they make plenty of offensive jokes at each other’s expense, but most are negligible when heads are blown open like balloons in this movie.
The Predator has so many twists and turns, changes in setting, and casual headshots that on the surface, it has no clear direction. The beauty in this movie is that it has far more respect for its audience than it does itself. Reboots tend to treat themselves like a spoiled child of a rich kid, bloated on self–satisfaction, but this movie recognizes its place in a franchise’s meh–ness and adjusts accordingly. It maintains a steady rhythm of cheesy one–liners and ridiculous plot–points (spoiler: in the third act the squad adopts a Predator–canine) such that one will never be bored while watching.
It hardly counts as fine film or even a big–budget blockbuster, and will likely not do well enough for a follow–up, but for ten bucks at the theater, Predator is a charming, self–deprecating feature that wants you to laugh at the umpteenth iteration of grown men attempting to kill a giant bug.