I owe readers an apology. I should have posted about this movie the instant it appeared on our screens, rather than just as it's disappearing from them...
I tried, though, I really did. I went to the very first screening of The Predator at my local cinema — a preview in deluxe wide screen 3D. Unfortunately it was too deluxe and too 3D for the geniuses at Cineworld Wandsworth. After half an hour, with half the audience in the foyer complaining, and most of the staff in the projection booth trying to get the movie to work... I threw in the towel.
The next few weeks were spent frantically finishing my fourth Vinyl Detective novel. No movies for Andrew then!
All of which is a long winded explanation for why I wasn't singing the praises of this great movie ages ago.
Anyway, The Predator is directed and co-written by Shane Black. I've discussed my admiration for Black — one of the all time great Hollywood screenwriters — in my posts on Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, two other films where he served as both director and writer.
The Predator was co-written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, based on characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas in the original Predator movie in 1987. Black & Dekker (I know, I know, but I couldn't resist it) have worked as a writing team before, on the delightful Monster Squad, which also appeared in 1987.
Why is this Black & Dekker movie so great? Well, largely because the characters are so magnificent. Boyd Holbrook plays the main man, Quinn McKenna, but we also have a kick-ass heroine in the shape of Casey Bracket played by Olivia Munn.
Casey's a plausible scientist, speculating on everything from the function of the predator's dreadlocks (possibly sensory organs) to the theory that high-functioning autism is the next step in human evolution. But as I said, she can kick ass, so in some very macho company she manages to more than hold her own, and she has some great lines.
Which isn't surprising. Shane Black's dialogue is routinely magnificent. And very funny. "Don't say 'retarded'. That's insensitive. And Quinn's kid is retarded." That show-stopper comes from one of the memorable team of characters who join forces with Quinn in battling the formidable alien invader.
The Predator is kind of a warped, touching, and frequently hilarious variation on the guys-on-a-mission movie. In this case the mission is to stop the predator of the title — although as Casey points out, the bloodthirsty extraterrestrial's behaviour is that of a sports hunter, not a predator at all.
What is really great here is that Black & Dekker have come up with a brilliant device for swiftly allying Quinn with a team of engaging oddballs, all of whom have the necessary combat skills to go after the space-faring bad guy.
And each of these supporting characters have their own distinct back-story. Their own shtick, if you want to be cynical, but they are such engaging and amusing figures that when the body count begins to mount at the end of the movie, it's genuinely heartbreaking.
I can't recommend The Predator highly enough. I just wish I'd caught it early enough to see it two or three times.
(Image credits: All the posters are from Imp Awards.)