Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.
Los Angeles, 1997. A predator is loose in the city and is picking off rival gang leaders…
The cast: The lead is Danny Glover, who’d recently played another cop in two Lethal Weapon films. In fact, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan is basically Lethal Weapon’s Riggs and Murtaugh combined into one person. It’s an unconvincing performance. Kevin Peter Hall climbs into the predator suit again, though this is a different individual from the 1987 film. Gary Busey is another Lethal Weapon alumnus, here miscast as a shifty agent called Peter Keyes. Maria Conchita Alonso is Harrigan’s spunky sidekick, Detective Leona Cantrell, and is just as rubbish as she had been in The Running Man. Bill Paxton adds a bit of fun as light-hearted detective Jerry Lambert. Robert Davi (Die Hard, Licence to Kill) has a tiny role as the police chief. Adam Baldwin (later a regular in Firefly) is Keyes’s second-in-command. During an info-dump about the events of Predator, we see a character from that film on a monitor: presumably because Arnold Schwarzenegger’s image rights were too expensive, it’s Anna Gonsalves rather than Dutch Schaefer.
The best bit: The predator attacks a subway train. A great set, which convincingly shuffles from side to side, and epileptic lighting. Scary stuff.
Crossover: The creatures from the Alien and Predator films first appeared together in February 1990 in a comic book called Dark Horse Presents #36. As a nod to the comic, the Predator 2 design team placed a xenomorph skull in amongst the predator’s trophies of its kills. Additionally, this film features a casting crossover with the Alien series. For a giggle, let’s assume that Bill Paxton’s Detective Lambert is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Private Hudson from Aliens.
Review: The first image of the film is terrific. A helicopter shot swoops over thick woodland, making us think we’re back in the world of the first movie – but when it breaks the treeline we see Los Angeles in the distance. The urban jungle of LA is, for some reason, set a few years into the future. So it’s therefore grimy, rundown, trashy, and there’s a war going on between ethnic-minority gangs over money, cocaine and power. Right from the first scene this is over-the-top, schlocky stuff that’s difficult to take seriously. The script is clichéd and crass, while the cast is largely terrible. Yet everything has an undoubted vibrancy about it. The substance might be nonsense but the cinematic style – brisk editing, good camera movement, a solid Alan Silvestri score – pulls you through. For instance, there are a number of well-constructed shots. The first scene in the police station features a 64-second long take. The camera passes the busy front desk, the detectives’ bullpen and every 1980s-Hollywood-cop-shop stereotype going (yes, there are prostitutes!) before finding Harrigan, who we then follow into his boss’s office. It’s just one of a few instances where a camera move is artful and revealing. They deserve better material. The first half of the movie also really pushes a film-noir feeling – most evident in a penthouse crime scene and Harrigan’s office with light coming in through blinds – and there are flashes of Robocop-style satire when we see clips from a lurid TV news show. However, halfway in, once the plotting stops and the film becomes an extended chase scene, it gets really boring. It doesn’t help that Glover has to keep talking to himself because the sidekicks have all been dispatched. That device worked in Die Hard, but Harrigan is no John McClane. There’s only one reason why it’s worth watching until the end. The predator’s spaceship, where the climax takes place, is *great*. Vaguely Mayan or Aztec-looking, it’s both beautiful and strange at the same time. (By the way, the production designer was Lawrence G Paull, whose work keeps getting praised on this blog. He was also responsible for the physical style of Back to the Future and Blade Runner. In short, he’s a genius.) Predator 2 ain’t subtle, but it is quite fun. A guilty pleasure.
Seven ugly motherfuckers out of 10
Next time: Even more Aliens…