Dir Shane Black, 107 mins, starring: Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K Brown, Keegan-Michael Key
“Ain’t nobody gonna believe this one”, someone observes early on in Shane Black’s very tongue-in-cheek new sci-fi extravaganza. The film serves up a few chuckles along the way. It offers plenty of gore and slimy green goo too, but is neither funny nor horrific enough overall to justify the rebooting of the franchise.
Boyd Holbrook, the laid back DEA Agent from Netflix drama Narcos, plays the hero Quinn – a retired special forces army ranger now working as a mercenary. He first encounters the alien creature when a spaceship crashes in the Mexican wilderness just at the moment he is about to shoot some drug dealer/kidnapper-type in the head.
Unlike almost everybody else in the vicinity, Quinn escapes being bitten in half or trussed upside down from a tree as his guts spill out. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, he swallows a silver bauble that can make him invisible and then posts some of the alien’s armour to his autistic son back home in the US.
The alien wants the equipment back and seemingly has an affinity with the kid. (Autistic children, we are told, are the next step on the evolutionary chain).
Writer-director Black quickly sketches in Quinn’s family details. We learn that he is a lousy husband (now separated from his long-suffering wife) but a “damned good soldier”, even if he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In somewhat haphazard fashion, he is thrown together with the “loonies”, a collection of fellow misfits and military rejects who turn out to be almost as selfless and heroic as he is. He is also joined by the glamorous biologist Dr Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn).
The scientists have ascertained, to their evident amazement, that there is human DNA in the makeup of the monsters. The main creature is looking forward to some old-fashioned bloodsport. Once it has upgraded itself and learnt to talk in Dalek-like English, it tells the humans they have “time advantage” – in other words, a few minutes of a head start, before it comes to devour them.
As he has shown in his screenplays for everything from Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout and The Nice Guys, Shane Black has few peers when it comes to writing mainstream movies with a self-mocking, ironic wit about them. The problem with The Predator (which Black co-scripted with Fred Dekker) is that we are watching three separate films, joined together like unwieldy pieces of Lego.
One is a Hogan’s Heroes-like action-comedy in which every event, however violent or unfortunate, is a source of immense, joshing mirth. Another is a full-blown horror picture, with its fair share of entrails dangling from corpses, blood and general havoc.
The third is a Spielberg-like fable in which a kid communicates with another world. Black struggles to combine the different elements. It remains to be seen if audiences still have the appetite for such random, back to the Eighties-style hocus pocus.
‘The Predator’ is in cinemas from 14 September