So remember, even if you ain’t got time to bleed, in the Video Vault no-one can hear you scream…
Dave Roper enters the vault, with a couple of days to kill.
We were all really hoping that Arnie would come back for a second crack at the Predator. He escaped the first one by jumping out of the way of an atomic blast (take that Indiana Jones, he doesn’t even need a fridge) and would surely have had a blast taking on a new Predator in a different setting.
Sadly it was not to be and after the opening credit tease of a camera rushing over the tree line of a jungle, we find ourselves instead in LA in the then-future of the late 1990’s. LA is being torn apart by drug wars between Jamaicans and Colombians, with the increasingly helpless and ineffective LAPD stuck in the middle, trying to prevent the city melting down into anarchy.
What looks initially like the bloody end to a stand-off turns out to be the handiwork of a Predator who, to quote the film’s excellent tagline, is in town with a few days to kill. All of this “skin them and hoist them up high” stuff is pretty familiar to us from the first film, but it takes the Predator’s attack on the Jamaicans as they are about to slice and dice the head of the Colombian gang to get the LAPD thinking that they might have something a little different on their hands.
This time around, we get Danny Glover instead of Arnie and although he does his best and is no doubt a finer actor than Arnie will ever be, he lacks the physicality that Arnie always brings to his best roles. It just does not seem credible that even with the benefit of a commandeered alien weapon, Glover would be able to square off against a seven foot tall Predator. Glover has often seemed to me to be slightly awkward in his fight scenes and unfortunately this carries through to this performance. This is not intended as a slight on Glover per se, rather an error in the casting.
Plot-wise, we’re on even simpler ground than the first film. The two gangs are fighting, the LAPD want them to stop, the Predator wants to kill lots of people. The most interesting addition is a team of federal agents who are intent on capturing the Predator in order to harness its impressive array of advanced alien technology. This climaxes in one of the film’s better sequences when the agents try to corner and capture the Predator in a meat-packing warehouse. It doesn’t end well.
Another of the film’s better sequences is the Predator’s attack on the above-mentioned Jamaican killing party. The Predator unleashes an array of weapons not seen before, such as a razor-wire net, a retractable spear and a very, very sharp frisbee. It’s all a lot of fun but despite a reveal at the end that shows how long the Predators have been visiting Earth, as well as a glimpse of the Predator’s trophy cabinet that shows a very distinctive alien skull, not much is done here to extend or deepen the Predator mythology, as most noticeably contrasted with Aliens.
So what are we left with? A few pretty exciting set-pieces, a lead actor who gives the role a fair crack but seems fundamentally miscast, some effectively gruesome death scenes and a bit of “I’ve a feeling they’ll be back” at the end. Somehow though, it doesn’t add up to a satisfying whole. Compared to the first film, watching the Predator scythe through some fairly faceless, meaningless characters has nowhere near the impact of seeing the deaths of a group of tight-knit commandos. It winds up being a film that fails to grab your attention, where you find yourself caring very little for the outcome, save for a bit of a cheer when Gary Busey gets his head cut off.
It’s not a bad film, just a bit of a lazy one and in the end, a wasted opportunity to develop and build on the many considerable strengths of the first film. You can see the trailer below, which actually makes it look considerably more action-packed than it really is.