BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 9, 2018
“El cazador trofeo de los hombres” means the demon who makes trophies of men.”— Anna (Elpidia Carrillo)
John McTiernan’s 1987 “Predator” defines machismo, cast with a couple of dozen men and one lone woman, who is only along for the ride. The alien doesn’t even attack her, because, you know, she’s not a threat.
There is an opening close-up of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers bro-ing out by locking arms and flexing their muscles, to which there is a slight push-in to accentuate the fact that these men are macho. They are modern-day gladiators, but instead of arming themselves with swords and shields, they have assault rifles and a portable Gatling gun nicknamed “Old Painless.” And they are not afraid to mow down parts of the lush Central American jungle with their never-ending ammunition.
The only thing more macho than these guys is the Predator, a superior alien race decked out with high tech camouflaging gear, an iconic laser-sighted blaster, and a helmet with infrared heat vision. It can rip the skin from a soldier’s body, eviscerate, or merely end someone with a single kill-shot to the head. Its only weakness: it can’t “see” you covered in mud. The alien is the pinnacle of the film’s chauvinism, shedding its unbeatable armor in the third act to go Mano-a-mano with Schwarzenegger.
The design of the alien gets a ten out of ten. The practicality of the creature holds up, looking as intimidating as it did thirty years ago. What doesn’t hold up are the camouflaging effects. The alien’s mirrored camouflage looks like computer rendering in its earliest stages and, apart from a younger Schwarzenegger, it is the only thing that dates the film.
If you expect a great deal from your masculine sci-fi action films, then “Predator” will let you down. The barbaric writing and tone-deaf performances, especially from Schwarzenegger, are made worse by hammed up lines (“Get to the Choppa [chopper]”) and frivolous quips (“Stick around!” … directed at a villain that he pins to the wall with a knife throw). In spite of that, Schwarzenegger does embody the perfect physical action hero. When the man is effortlessly wielding a gun, sweat glistening off his muscles, it reminds you why this man has such a successful career.
As jacked on testosterone as the film may be, the personalities do shine through, enough for you beg the horror gods not to kill off your favorite characters. The iconic Sonny Landham nails the role of Billy, the tracker. He is the one sniffing dirt and following tracks. He is also the first of the men alerted to the presence of the alien stalking them from the trees.
Before his run as Minnesota governor but after his days as a professional wrestler, Jesse “The Body” Ventura plays the eccentric Blain, with a mouth full of chew and a tight relationship with Mac (Bill Duke). The two get to do their share of yelling and avenging. Shane Black, long before he was the director of “Iron Man 3,” even has his moment as the walking pair of glasses, Rick Hawkins.
With telegraphed twists, a title monster that remains invisible until well past the halfway point of the film, and again, only one female (Elpidia Carrillo), “Predator” seems so focused on presenting the art of manliness that it errs in almost every other regard. In any case, the potential for an ever-growing franchise is clear, with this first installment barely scratching the concept’s surface. Where the creature comes from, what it wants, and what impact its visit has are all questions left untouched, leaving plenty of ideas for another director to flesh out.
June 12, 1987
20th Century Fox
(for adult situations/language, violence)
John F. Link