By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita-Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr, and Kevin Peter Hall
There’s a scene in Predator 2 that perfectly outlines my feelings for the entire film. A Predator plants himself on top of a high-rise Los Angeles building as a lightning storm is going on. Out of nowhere, the Predator lifts his spear to the heavens, and is struck by lightning, outlining him and his spear in a Dark Force style outline of lightning. The image and how it came to be doesn’t make much sense, but it’s sure as hell cool to look at. That right there puts my perceptions of Predator 2 in complete perspective. The film has an indubitable mean spirit. But there is no point in which it is poor to look at, and its style carries it for the entire 108 minute running time. It may also contain the moment that caused a pre-internet society to completely geek out. Or was that just me?
First thing’s first: To say the least, Danny Glover is a peculiar choice as leading man (and Predator rival) Mike Hannigan. Truth be told, there is very little difference between what he does here and Roger Murtaugh, his character from the Lethal Weapon series. It’s almost as if producer Joel Silver completely intended to take Murtaugh and inject him into Predator.
The rest of the cast didn’t really add much to the admittedly thinly written script (by Jim & John Thomas, same scribes of the first film). The overly tanned Paxton bordered on being obnoxiously unbearable, and Conchita Alonso just contributed more to Predator 2 looking like an Aliens rip off. Blades was an ok presence. But the problem with these characters is that all of them are despicable onscreen, and they prove to be ten times more expendable than the far more enjoyable previous crew. As far as Downey goes, the less said about him the better.
Yet I will give major shout outs to the late Hall. The only other things I know his 6’9 presence from are The Electric Company and Harry from Harry and the Hendersons. Not exactly two things that would point to him excelling as a killer alien hunter. Yet within the Predator suit, which he was wearing for the second time, Hall perfected mannerisms. His reactions to the curing of himself with some sort of blue gel was great, and his character’s heinous attacks were always played with a certain amount of glee.
Director Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) brings an inspired sense of direction to Predator 2. From our intro to LA being full of explosions and drugs, to the familiarization of the Predator from two different character’s perspectives, all the way to the Predator’s strobe filled attack on gun-toting train commuters, I feel Hopkins did a more than commendable directorial job. There is also an exciting sequence that takes place in a slaughterhouse and a bloody attack on Jamaicans in a hotel room that were nicely staged.
Where the film shows its seams is in its script, which was in desperate need of rewrites. It’s not surprising that the Thomas brothers whipped this puppy up in three weeks, as placing the film in 1997 and not expanding on it made absolutely no sense. It’s almost like they attached that date just to say that the events from the first film took place the nice round number of ten years ago. Things such as Leona’s pregnancy, how Keys and his men know of the Predator’s infrared vision, and the presence of Jamaican gangs, are also left inconclusively and frustratingly unexplained. Worse yet, when you think about the film’s grand finale and how we the film progresses, it rattles your brain the more you try to make sense of it. I feel getting an extra view of the alien culture associated with the Predators wasn’t worth it due to Hannigan simply falling from an elevator shaft to get there. Though if he hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have the xenomorph cameo.
Generally, Predator 2 is a tough film to rate. Reason being the more you think about the film’s expansive plot holes, the less enjoyment you’ll get out of it. I say that with Hopkins’ rapid cuts, combined with some pretty slick action scenes, makes this more than watchable. But the script is a mess, and I really wish the Thomas boys had trimmed scenes such as an old lady in curlers cursing at Hannigan and replaced it with a more tightly woven ending. Though, at least we have the Alien vs Predator films to look forward to. Right?