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story.lead_photo.caption “Predators don’t just sit around making hats out of rib cages,” warns a character in the new reboot of the alien action franchise that premiered in 1987. “They conquered space.”

Deservedly or not, Shane Black has a reputation for clever, entertaining Hollywood-style films: He blazed his career early with the success of his scripts for the Lethal Weapon series, which landed him in very lucrative territory for subsequent scripts, but partying too hard and audience apathy for a couple of his other, more expensive scripts (including The Last Action Hero, which was famously one of the few bombs Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in) cooled his career considerably. He made a comeback of sorts with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang a few years later, and got back in Hollywood's good graces with writing and directing Iron Man 3, and, most recently, The Nice Guys.

The man can write a decent popcorn script, which is why the effort he has put out here, writing and directing this turgid, utterly insensible, and lazy installment of the already beaten down Predator franchise, actually registers as disappointing.

The Predator

77 Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski, Augusto Aguilera

Director: Shane Black

Rating: R, for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

You could say Predators, those space aliens who venture down to Earth every so often to partake in some trophy hunting of he-men in the military, have caused a lot of suffering among humans, but our suffering pales in comparison to what we've done to them over the course of the last 30 years: Each new installment of the series has been notably worse than the one before it -- and don't even get me started on that loathsome Alien vs. Predator nonsense -- and this film, sadly, doesn't break that cycle.

The script, which plays as if it were written on bubblegum wrappers over the course of single boozy evening, has it that one predator is running away from what we could call a super-predator, bigger and more aggressive than even the usual type (think Navy SEAL as compared to an idiot safari bro). Crashing on Earth, it quickly runs afoul of McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a sniper Ranger on assignment with his team, who all get wiped out. For reasons too dumb to try and explain, McKenna ends up with the predator's helmet and wrist cannon and somehow gets them mailed to his P.O. box in the town where his ex-wife (Yvonne Strahovski), and on-the-spectrum son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay, the talented child actor from Room), live. Naturally, Rory opens the box and, using his special spectrum brain powers, quickly decodes the predator's language and operating system.

photo
Dr. Bracket (Olivia Munn) is protective of human decoder ring Rory (Jacob Tremblay) in Shane Black’s The Predator.

Meanwhile, the military brings in a biologist, Dr. Bracket (Olivia Munn, more on her in a moment) to study the creature they have in captivity, but when the creature senses its pursuer arriving on Earth, it leaps into action and starts tearing apart its captors. This happens, naturally, the exact same time McKenna, now arrested and sent with a bunch of other men -- too many and too disposable to list here -- the military has deemed crazy, over to the base to speak with the Bracket. All hell breaks loose, Dr. Bracket goes from confused, terrified academic to inflamed action hero, jumping on the top of moving buses, and handling an assault rifle as if she were in the militia, and everyone else joins in the chase along with McKenna and his crew of nut-jobs.

Lots of other things happen, growing in stupidity and laziness -- Rory goes overnight from abhorring loud noises and not communicating well to handling fiery explosions and gun shots inches from his head, and yukking it up with the guys as if he were on shore leave -- and Black seems to abdicate all responsibility for the thing at the end, mailing in the ending in order to set up further sequels.

It turns out, too, that's not the only dreadfully poor decision he made on set. As deduced by co-star Munn on the eve of its release, Black knowingly had cast a buddy of his, the actor Steven Wilder Striegel, in a small role, without revealing to the cast (or, presumably, the studio) he was a registered sex offender.

At the Toronto International Film Festival this past week, as the cast were meant to make the press rounds, Munn found herself often alone in what were meant to be large group interviews, many of the other actors eschewing the whole affair rather than having to answer uncomfortable questions about the set. After voicing her objections to the studio, who subsequently cut the scene with Streigel, she was left isolated and alone, forced to answer reporters' dogged queries on her own. Black, ever the gentleman, issued a news release apology, but avoided all press interviews since the news broke.

It's a shameful situation for poor Munn, who only did, as she correctly describes it, "the right thing," and is summarily being punished for it. Not that it would make it any less objectionable, but it's somehow worse still she's having to suffer in this way in press support for such a pointlessly disposable picture.

MovieStyle on 09/14/2018

Print Headline: MOVIE REVIEW: Disappointing 'Predator' continues downward spiral of sequels

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