Predator 2 (1990) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: R for violence, gore, drug use, nudity, sexuality and language
Running Time: 108min.
Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Morton Downey Jr., Kevin Peter Hall
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Screenplay: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Predator 2 shows how important star charisma and crisp direction are to an action film, as the first one had it and this one doesn't. Predator was an exciting and very interesting take on a very simple premise, and screen presence from Arnie and a cast of engaging supporting characters drove it to be an adrenaline-charged, intelligent and often humorous film that delivered the goods with a wallop. By comparison, Predator 2 isn't nearly as smart (although it is by the same screenwriters), funny or remotely as well-packaged, with Stephen Hopkins' (Under Suspicion, Lost in Space) direction never really building on the momentum it occasionally gains from time to time.
The year is 1997. Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon 4, The Rainmaker) plays LAPD officer Lt. Harrigan, who finds himself not knowing which way is up when the drug war sees many of the participants hung up to the ceiling, skinned alive. The obvious subject are the Jamaicans, whose allegiance to black magic rituals provide the only logical explanation for these illogical acts. Soon, even these explanations no longer suffice when the culprit reveals itself to be an other-worldly predator, whose guile and stealth skills prove to be more than a match for the police force and gangs that are out for survival.
The first major aesthetic knock on Predator 2 comes from the concerted effort by the filmmakers to set this film in the future, seven years ahead of the release date. Presumably, it's to give Los Angeles an overpopulated feel, as well as to introduce a world where gangs threaten to send the city into complete anarchy. Hindsight has shown us that the events as predicted by this movie are utter Hollywood hogwash, but even taking it on its own terms, the claustrophobic feel of a Los Angeles overrun by people at every turn proves to be a bad move just on aesthetics alone. It's all too busy, and quite distracting, as the storyline can't come to the forefront when so much is going on in the background.
The business finally subsides in the first really good scene of the film, where the Predator is trapped in a meat packing plant, surrounded by Gary Busey (Under Siege, The Gumball Rally) and his well-armed cronies. As good as this scene is, it is also not an original scene, blatantly stolen from a similar scene in Aliens. This speaks to a major problem for the film -- it just seems all too familiar. What new concepts it introduces just aren't really worth coming back for round two, and the premise of the Predator fighting humans on their own turf just doesn't seem novel enough to keep the interest level high.
Predator 2 suffers from a lack cast chemistry, spotty direction, and recycled concepts, so low expectations are definitely a must. It's only recommended for people who enjoyed the first entry for its gore and violence quotient, as this one does keep the blood flowing in that regard. However, there's no substitute for Schwarzenegger and McTiernan, and in filling the film up with lackluster characters, we have no real rooting interest at all. My recommendation is to stick with the original and be content with that.
-- Followed by Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.
© 2004 Vince Leo