Tagline: This time he’s coming to a different kind of jungle.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall, Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi
18 | 1hr 48min | Action, Sci-Fi
Budget: $35,000,000 (estimated)
When it comes to Predator, less is most definitely more. In the three decades since the release of the original there have been so many pointless sequels that I now look upon this once cherished character with derision. Predator 2 is perhaps the best of all those sequels, but it still manages to underwhelm on just about every level, not least because you find it impossible not to compare it to the original, to which it is nothing more than a diluted carbon copy.
There are many reasons why the original Predator proved so successful on an entertainment level. Firstly, the movie opened like any other run-of-the-mill action flick, and in fact masqueraded as a typical Arnie spectacular with the intention of drawing us into a cinematic comfort zone where something quite irregular was ready to pounce. Secondly, the Predator was a lurking presence, elusive and ethereal with absolutely no background story. We knew something wasn’t quite right, as did our team of battle-hardened soldiers, we just didn’t know what, a fact that made those extreme instances of graphic violence uniquely interesting. We were also introduced to what were quite prodigious special effects for the time, along with the fantastic costume design of the alien himself. Above all else, Predator was a film of firsts.
Predator 2 is firmly a movie of seconds. They say it is a mistake to toy too heavily with a winning formula, and that is largely true, but when a formula relies so heavily on mystery a simple retread will not suffice, particularly when audience expectations are so high. As a franchise, Predator is on par with The Terminator or Alien, but because it never had a sequel of their calibre, it will always come in at a sluggish third place. Such was the expectation of those two movies they could have very easily gone the down same route, but director James Cameron knew how to tinker with a winning formula in a way that gave those sequels an identity of their own. Director Stephen Hopkins finds it rather more difficult.
Okay, so judging a sequel based on comparisons with one of the best-loved action extravaganza’s of the decade is unfair, and Predator 2 isn’t all bad. In fact, in the realms of mainstream action fodder it proves more enjoyable than most. The sequel places more of an emphasis on horror, and its grungy tone recalls movies such as Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, depicting a modern metropolis mired in fear and desperation. Falling Down documented America’s social ills with a heavy dose of satire. Predator 2 instead relies on blood and guts, and those who relish the grand guignol will certainly appreciate some of the movie’s grisly visuals.
As the tagline so predictably proclaims, this time the Predator is coming to a different kind of jungle. Here, the war zone is the LA streets of a decidedly ‘80s looking 1997, and the warring factions are rival drug gangs of the Latino and Jamaican persuasions, their hackneyed delineations stretching no further than cocaine and ganja respectively. The movie’s thin characterisation doesn’t stop at its bit-part players, which is a shame when you consider the stellar cast it had at its disposal. Predator lacked truly well-rounded characters too, but it didn’t require them. It instead got by on its hypermasculine prowess, and when those cartoon heroes were swiftly dispatched, it only added to the villain’s mystique. Predator 2 is a different animal. To It needed more in those terms in order to truly stand-out.
Predator 2 was a huge attraction for actors looking to further their profiles, and the movie is a who’s who of 80s action movie mainstays. This is a blink and you’ll miss them parade of some of the genre’s most recognisable B-players, from the white half of Die Hard‘s Johnson and Johnson (Robert Davi) to Riggs and Murtaugh’s long-suffering precinct captain, who makes a one scene cameo, this time as Danny Glover’s understudy. Moving up to the main supporting cast we have Bill Paxton as a muddled hero/sleazeball detective, and The Running Man‘s Maria Conchita Alonso fighting the women’s corner as a female pit bull who can go toe-to-toe with any tough guy chauvinist. Glover is also reunited with Lethal Weapon co-star Gary Busey, who is criminally underutilised as the archetypal bureaucrat who threatens to stand in our hero’s way before ultimately stepping up to the plate.
Glover is given the spurious honour of succeeding the mighty Schwarzenegger as our marquee attraction. He plays a tough, no-nonsense cop who ultimately becomes the lion our sport hunting Predator chooses as his prime game. In his first action lead following great success as Mel Gibson‘s straight man foil, Glover never quite manages to step out of Arnie’s considerable shadow, and this is through no fault of his own. In many ways Glover is too good for the role, his typically enigmatic turn further highlighting the screenplay’s trite inadequacies, and with no love interest in sight he barely gets the chance to develop the role of Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, who is about one fifth of the infectious Murtaugh.
What is the reason for Glover’s largely forgettable turn? I’m not quite sure, though it is probably a combination of things. The primary factor is the movie’s lack of originality and inability to live up to the lofty expectations of John McTiernan’s jungle-bound classic. The plot is almost identical save for the setting. We have two warring factions who are quickly picked off by an unseen entity, while political machinations throw a spanner in the works, sending Harrigan on a vengeful warpath after his cop buddy is brutally disposed of.
The problem is, we have already seen the unseen in explicit detail, and as a result the movie lacks any real suspense. If this was an original action romp and not a sequel to one of the most unique mainstream vehicles of its time, it would have been far better received, and though it is perfectly enjoyable as a grungy, often stifling exercise in violence, one of the most emblematic creations of the decade deserved much more. Just ask James Cameron.
Coming to Harrigan’s aid with one of the most useless steam-emitting weapons ever conceived, Gary Busey’s Peter Keyes is cut clean in half by the predator’s circular saw Frisbee, which tears through a whole row of frozen cow carcasses to reach its target. Maybe a flamethrower would have been more practical.
Most Absurd Moment
After losing his claw in a rooftop battle with Harrigan, our Predator slips into a nearby apartment and sets about patching himself up. This proves rather painful, however, and after our alien’s screams alert an elderly resident, she goes in search of the culprit with the second most useless weapon ever conceived: a push broom. Before she can effectively utilise her article of destruction, ‘Pred’ smashes through her bathroom door and tears out into the hallway, after which the pursuing Harrigan appears from the rubble. ‘Don’t worry, I’m a cop,’ he uselessly proclaims, to which the lady replies, ‘I don’t think he gives a shit.’
Most Absurd Dialogue
Following their rooftop scuffle, the Predator is left hanging from a ledge while Harrigan towers over him.
Harrigan: Your move, pussy face.
Predator: ‘Shit Happens!’