Review #500: If it bleeds, we can kill it

Sep 4, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Action, horror and Sci-Fi blended brilliantly in a lush jungle with great effects.

Cons:A few plot niggles

The Bottom Line: One of the greatest action movies of all time, if you claim to be a fan of the genre and haven't seen Predator, you should be ashamed.

For my 500th review, I figured I should pick a movie that I hold in high regard. After thinking about looking at many classic movies I've recently been watching, I decided instead to opt for a film that has stood the test of time with me. Lord only knows how many times I've seen Predator. It's the kind of movie that used to be shown on TV roughly once a week, and even nowadays it's one of the few good old movies that can be found occasionally airing on terrestrial TV. It was one of the first expensive DVDs I purchased, and also one of the only occasions where I've actually taken in all of the special features. Despite repeated watchings, Predator is a movie that never tires me, no matter how many action movies I watch, I can still go back to watch Predator and still take fresh enjoyment out of it. It's truly one of the pinnacle points of the action movie genre, and easily ranks up there as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best movies.

Released in 1987, which makes me 2 years older than it, Predator follows an elite US Military rescue team, lead by Major Dutch Schaeffer(Arnold Schwarzenegger - Conan the Barbarian), who have been called out to a remote military base in South America, to take part in a top secret mission. His team, consisting of Native American tracker Billy(Sonny Landham - Best of the Best 2) as well as Blaine(Jesse Ventura - The Running Man), Mac(Bill Duke - Exit Wounds), Hawkins(Shane Black - Robocop 3) and 'Poncho' Ramirez(Richard Chaves - Witness), have recently turned down a high importance assassination mission on principle, but are still regarded as the best in their field, and have been called in to rescue an American diplomat whose chopped went down in the Jungle, and is believed to be in rebel hands. Accompanying them on this mission is Dutch's old friend, and now CIA man Dillon(Carl Weathers - Rocky), which causes some dissent from the team, but orders are orders, and off they go.

When they find the chopper, they discover it has been stripped of all it's equipment, and suspiciously, it looks like it was lined with all sorts of high-tech gear...not something a diplomat would be equipped with. Suspicions are heightened by the fact that the team discover a group of Green Berrets, or what's left of them, having been skinned.

While growing more distrusting of Dillon by the minute, the team soldiers on, until they find the rebel base camp. After witnessing one of the hostages being killed, they strike the base, which turns out to be co-run by Russian forces. All of the hostages are dead, and Dillon reveals that the real reason the team were brought in was to get all of the plans from this camp for the Russian's schemes. Insensed, the group are even more annoyed when Dillon insists on taking the one survivor, a girl named Anna(Elpidia Carrillo - The Brave), with them, in case she holds information.

The gang are in hostile territory, so they will need to get accross the closest border before they can be airlifted out. Unfortuneately, the nearest border is accross a fairly treacherous and thick jungle. En route to the pick-up-point, the situation gets worse, when team members begin to go missing one by one. The group are being stalked by a lethal alien hunter who has a high-tech cloaking device and a myriad of futuristic weaponry, all in the name of taking some skulls home as trophies. It isn't long before all that remains of the team is Dutch and Anna, the latter of whom makes it to the chopper, as Dutch decides to try and take down this predator.

The plot of the movie is pretty simple. Hell it's an Arnie flick, deep plots aren't expected. However, the one thing I've always respected the film for, was knowing that it didn't need a complex plot. The film could easily have went overboard and cluttered itself up with all sorts of silly offshoots. For some reason, until watching the film again recently, I was under the impression Dillon knew about the Predator and the team were sent to kill it. Personally I'm glad I was mistaken, as that makes Predator 2 seem like less of a rehash, and it also helps keep the plot here simple. There isn't much to write about, but that's why the film works. The group mechanic of the team comes accross as realistic, and doesn't seem as cliched as the military team in most other action movies. The interaction between the team members is good, and apart from Blaine the hard-man and Billy the traditional-minded man of ethnicity, the team members manage to avoid easy stereotype classification.

I mean, the plot isn't perfect, it's never explained why the Predator didn't take the Green Berret's skulls, and the fact that the team go into what is meant to be a rescue mission firing grenades at buildings when they don't know where the hostages are is a bit silly, but you'll be hard pressed to find a movie that's plot doesn't contain some flaws. Besides, the meat of this film is really about the alien stalking the team, and that's where it excells.

The film is also littered with some great dialogue. Well, great in that 80s action movie kind of way. As well as Arnie's now famous "if it bleeds, we can kill it", the film also boasts Blaine's epic line, spoken to the team after turning down some chewing tobacco "bunch of slack-jawed faggots, this stuff will make you a sexual tyrannosaurus" as well as the immortal "I ain't got time to bleed". Sure it's cheesy as all hell, but delivered with the right amount of machismo to make it awesome.

Acting in the film...well while nobody involved was ever going to win any awards, this certainly isn't a blot on anyone's CV. Arnold's accent isn't that bad, apart from in one scene ("get to ze chappa!") and he played the role so well he's subsequently been cast in it for almost every film he's done since. The rest of the soldiers all do well enough with their parts, making the characters seem convincingly tough, yet at the same time managing to create a fine sense of camaraderie between them.

When talking about the cast, it's also worth noting that while the Predator was, in the end, played by the 7 foot Kevin Peter Hall, the original actor cast in the part was none other than Jean Claude Van Damme. He only shot one scene, where the monster was invisible, and the creature design was altered drastically after his departure from the set. It's a pretty comical thought though, part of the Predator's appeal is it's giant size, and Jean Claude is 5 foot something.

Speaking of the Predator, it's worth noting that Stan Winston's effects are, as usual, of the highest standard. While the scenes of the almost invisible creature won't make you go "wow", they are pretty damn impressive, and the actual beast itself, when finally revealed, is absolutely awesome. A 7 foot reptillian humanoid with dreadlocks, mandibles and a funky mask. He sees via temperature, and this is another neat effect. All of the effects work, including limbs being blown off and skinned bodies, are all well realised and realistic, and in general, the film is an effects triumph.

It's also no slouch for action scenes, including the raid on the camp, which is a pretty good battle sequence, as well as Arnie's final duel with the monster. All the action scenes are well handled, and really quite excellent. A favourite scene is when Dutch tries to flee the Predator by swinging on a branch, only for it to blast the branch down as he catches it. The film has some exceptionally well done action set pieces.

To round off the package, the movie also boasts a wonderful score. The two main pieces are the excellent tension building voodoo drum beat, and the wonderful theme tune, which isn't all that optimistic sounding, which is why I like it.

You see, that's one reason I really like Predator. While Arnie saves the day and is a macho hero, he doesn't overdo it. The alien gets to smack him around something awfull, and for a healthy portion of the film, it borders on horror as the creature stalks the men in the jungle, avoiding all of their traps and outsmarting them at every turn.

As I mentioned earlier, it's easily one of my favourite movies of his, and ranks up there next to the first Terminator, Conan the Barbarian and The Running Man. It's also quite easily one of the best action movies ever made, simply by not overdoing the action scenes, but delivering memorable ones. I would recommend Predator to anyone really, but especially if the sound of a movie that combines action and Sci-Fi seamlessly, even going the extra mile to include a dash of horror, appeals to you. Arnie fans have surely already seen it, but if you haven't you must make it a priority. It's one of my favourite movies, and easily one of the best action flicks of not only the 1980s, but of all time.

Year: 1987
Titles: Predator

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