After watching PREDATOR for the first time since the ’80s and realizing that it’s actually a good movie, I decided to watch PREDATOR 2. I never seen this one before and I knew the reputation wasn’t too good. More ominous, instead of John McDIEHARDTiernan the director is Stephen LOST IN SPACE Hopkins. Not lookin good.
But damn if the opening isn’t a scorcher. It starts out with the familiar Predator POV heat vision in the jungle… but as it pans across you realize it’s not the jungle – it’s the outskirts of Los Angeles. THE URBAN JUNGLE! In the futuristic year of 1997. (Think about it: a Predator is loose in Los Angeles at the same time Snake Plissken is looking for the president in New York. Meanwhile, the Spice Girls are topping the charts and TITANIC is breaking box office records.)
Anyway the scorchin part is when the Predatorcam flies across the city and finds some TFM (total fuckin mayhem) goin down on a city block. It’s a shootout between cops and a gang of maniac Colombian drug dealers, but it’s a bigger war zone than the one that Dutch and his special ops team went into early in PREDATOR. You got flaming cop cars, wounded cops and motorcycles laying all over the street, cars blowin up and flippin through the air, machine guns firing every which way, cops running around with metal shields, and reporters (including Morton Downey Jr., remember him?) frantically trying to broadcast the play-by-play. When our hero Danny Glover shows up his colleagues tell him that they don’t have all their guys there because some of them are in the other shootout going on somewhere else in town. This is not a great movie, but it’s a truly great opening, picking you up by the hair and dropping you right into the thick of things.
So you quickly get the idea that maybe 1997 L.A. is not the best place to be a non-Predator. One might even consider it to be a total fuckin hellhole. And there’s alot of details to show that throughout the movie, like the way everybody always has sweatstains on their armpits and their chests. (I guess there’s a heatwave, which fits with what was said in the first movie about Predator tourists choosing to vacation in hot places.)
The cops end up chasing the gang into a building, where by some kind of dumb fuckin luck a Predator decides to hop through a skylight and skin the motherfuckers. So the cops come in and can’t figure out why there’s about ten thousand bullet shells on the floor and a bunch of dead, skinned guys with no bullet holes. It’s like one of those whodunit murder riddles except there’s no puddle of water so you know they weren’t killed with icicles. But before Danny and his team get much of a chance to figure things out the feds (led by Gary Busey, UNDER SIEGE) take over the investigation.
By the way this would be as good a time as any to mention that I have heard three separate reports of Gary Busy being spotted driving a red Cadillac convertible around Seattle. The sightings took place months apart, so he probaly wasn’t just in town shooting a movie here. I guess the common sense assumption would be that he either has a house here or has a relative or special friend that he visits here alot. But my theory is that these sorts of sightings take place all over the country, because he just drives all over the country in his convertible between filming movies. And he loops back here now and again. Or it could even be some sort of mystical apparition that appears in times of great change or turmoil. The Gary Busey convertible vision is a portent of doom.
And in the case of PREDATOR 2 the actual physical presence of Gary Busey is a portent of jurisdictional disputes. But of course Danny doesn’t give up that easy, he keeps investigating with his team of Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso and the rookie, Bill Paxton. But when they go visit the Jamaican posse the same exact shit happens – the Predator skins em before the cops get there.
That’s a real good cast there but I gotta be honest, they are not utilized as well as Jesse the Body, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham in part 1. Busey plays it surprisingly low key (he can’t be too much of an asshole because his character was supposed to be Dutch before Schwarzenegger turned it down). Partly because the team is not as badass, partly because the direction is not as good, and partly because they’re in a city instead of out in a jungle covered in mud, the story does not build as well as in the first one. Every once in a while you see a Predator on a fake looking set, like when he poses with a skull on top of a building and gets struck by lightning. He looks like he should be holding a flying-V guitar in that shot. And after that epic opening it seems a little wimpy to have one of the big action setpieces take place in a meatlocker. Also if the Predator can only see heat, how does he even know there’s a side of beef hanging there (they say he snacks on beef from slaughterhouses)? And why does he still see in computervision after his mask comes off? And how did he know the “you’re one ugly motherfucker” line from part 1? This isn’t supposed to be the same Predator back from the dead, is it? Maybe he saw PREDATOR on video.
In defense of this new Predator tourist, he does seem a little more honorable than his predecessor. Admittedly, he’s still using advanced alien technology against humans, which is still cheating. In fact, it seems like he’s constantly showing off new weapons every time he kills somebody, like James Bond or Jason Voorhees. But he does have honor and we know this because he decides not to kill Maria after his x-ray vision tells him she’s pregnant. Also, please note that he uses the x-ray to look at her innards, not her boobs. What I’m saying is this guy is a true gentleman.
At the end Danny finds the Predator ship, including the mantle where he keeps his trophy skulls. They got a t-rex on there and an Alien skull from the out-of-Predator’s-league-you-would-think ALIEN series. And next to that is a human skull. And you have to wonder why they even bother. I know there’s that cliche about man being the most dangerous game, but let’s be honest. After hunting tyrannosauruses and alienses this guy is basically just squirrel hunting at this point. Or at best fishing.
But Danny is one hell of a fish or squirrel, so he ends up beating the Predator right there on his own ship. Suddenly ten Predators turn off their camouflage and appear around him, a real OH SHIT moment. Instead of making a wisecrack like, “Oh damn, is it really 9:30? I gotta get home and iron my work shirts,” Danny utters the overly confident line, “All right, who’s next?”
Lucky for him these Predators
- follow a strict code of honor where they must respect him for defeating their bro in a fair fight
- always thought that Predator he killed was kind of a dick anyway, or
- didn’t see what happened because they have that crappy heatvision
so they just give him an antique musket from the 1700s as
- a symbol of their respect for his warrior skills, or
- a gag gift to confuse him. I mean seriously, a musket? What’s that all about?
so he just leaves. The end is cool too because he has to jump Dutch-style but instead of a self-destruct atom bomb he’s escaping the flames from the space ship’s space engines. Then he climbs out of the dirt and stumbles through L.A. looking like a zombie, carrying that antique musket given to him by aliens. He’s probaly not the first dude to ever wander around L.A. covered in dirt and carrying a musket that he believes was given to him by aliens, but he must be one of the first to be well-founded in that belief. He tells the feds not to worry, they’ll get to see a Predator again some day. In those naive days there was no way to anticipate them seriously doing ALIEN VS. PREDATOR so it probaly seemed like a nice idea.
I actually kind of like this idea of Predators coming to earth throughout time. Wouldn’t a good part 3 be to have a young Predator fighting dinosaurs as a rite of passage? No dialogue (maybe subtitles), you side with the Predators, and it’s all shot WALKING WITH DINOSAURS documentary style. They could do something weird and unexpected like that that wouldn’t make very much money, or they could make some moronic piece of worthless dog shit that taints the legacy of both this series and the ALIEN series, that makes the same small amount of money. It’s hard to say which direction the geniuses of Hollywood will go, we’ll just have to wait and see, could go either way.
PREDATOR 2 is not nearly as good of a movie as ROBOCOP but it has the same idea of exaggerating the madness of modern life to create the setting for the movie. The movie came out in 1990 which, as I explained in my review of I COME IN PEACE, is still the ’80s as far as I’m concerned. So you got alot of things that remind you of the ’80s: the aggressive, exploitative reporters (which seem current today but were probaly based on shows from the time like “A Current Affair” and shit), the MARKED FOR DEATH style, voodoo lovin Jamaican drug gang (who are so superstitious they think the Predator is a ghost), and even a reference to Bernard Goetz (a Goetz-looking guy pulls a gun on subway muggers – then every other passenger also pulls out a gun). I don’t think the movie is really a satire, and it might’ve been more effective if the plot did have some small thing to say about life in 1990, but I still think it makes for an interesting movie. I wish somebody would make a movie like that today. God knows there’s a whole lot of shit to work with.
All that stuff dates the movie in kind of a good way, but there’s also some shitty ’80s style humor that probaly should’ve been left behind in time. I mean do we really need a Predator that says “Shit happens” before he falls off a building? (.ON KCUF :rewsna [hold monitor up to mirror to see answer]) Also you get some of those dumb little moments like he almost kills a kid but the kid offers him candy, and a wacky old lady finds him in her bathroom, and that type of shit. Now, I like both of these movies but this is the perfect example of why this PREDATOR series did not deserve to be held on the same pedestal as the ALIEN series. Sure, they made some mistakes in ALIEN parts 3 and 4, but even at that point they never had a wacky old lady character, much less one who finds an alien in her bathroom and tries to swat him with a broom.
Still, I’d say it’s an underrated sequel. Nice to see them taking it in a different direction than the first one. The Predator’s head is still too big though, I still can’t tell he’s so tall. Let’s do better on the proportions next time, fellas.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.