Predator (1987) Directed by John Tieran
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Poncho: Major, you'd better take a look at this.
Dutch: Did you find Hawkins?
Poncho: I... I can't tell.
There are a lot of movies out there that the real test for how good they are is the test of time. This movie is now old enough to buy liquor, and it is still going strong.
The premise is remarkably simple. An elite team of mercenaries are dropped into the jungles of Central America on a covert operation. What it is is unimportant, heck it isn't even the mission they thought it was. The point is seven of the toughest, hardest, badazzes are moving through the jungle, heavily armed and lethal.
And something is hunting them.
The movie starts off like Rambo; rappelling out of a helicopter, tracking the hostages, all military macho, and the conflict is Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is beginning to think Dillon (Carl Weathers) has lied to him about their objective. The tracks of six men in American Army boots strengthens his suspicions.
Then they find some of the Americans skinned alive and hung in the trees. Now the creep me out factor has just moved up.
They find the guerillas; the blow the heck out of the guerillas. They take the hot guerilla chick captive (Elpidia Carrillo) and head back for the pickup. But now, the thing that has been following them, the thing they have only gotten uneasy hints of, steps up the game.
We know it is an alien, because we see it shadowing them from the trees, and it sees things in infra red. Warm bodies glow like beacons in the jungle. And we know what it has in mind...
Still, that is small comfort when it begins killing men, and taking parts of them as trophies.
Now, the question is can some of the finest warriors on earth compete with a big game hunter from another planet armed with lasers and a chameleon suit that renders them almost invisible?
The plot is simple, but the movie is strong, mostly because it does not try too hard; it does not try to explain the alien's motivations. Are they hunting? Is it religious? Does getting the most trophies get you a political appointment of first choice of a wife? We don't know. They don't try to tell us.
Nor does it try to build a romance between the hot Sandinista Anna and Dutch; there is a level of attraction, but this is not the time for romance. If there is a romance, it is a very subtle one between Mac (Bill Duke) and Blain (Jesse Ventura), the sexual Tyrannosaurus. Very subtle, but I think it is there. But no one asks, and they don't tell.
No, it is just about staying alive against a predator that sees in the dark and leaves no tracks and is one step removed from invisible. What it has going for it is seven strong macho men played by seven strong macho actors. The others not mentioned previously are Sonny Landham as Billy, the tracker, Shane Black as Hawkins, and Richard Chaves as Poncho, the grenadier. Kevin Peter Hall rounds at the cast as the Predator (so you know he is a big bugger.)
The movie gives the audience clues before the characters, such as seeing through the creatures eyes and seeing the glowing fluid that is its blood. This builds the suspense, and makes us feel like geniuses; I always like it when a movie does that. We figure out the creature's weaknesses first, and then hope our heroes will catch on quickly as well.
The monster itself is brilliant; it's big, it's mean, it's ugly, but it also has a redeeming quality; it is sportsmanlike. The best monsters and villain have redeeming qualities. Without some sort of redeeming quality you just have Charles Manson or Carl Rove.
So there you have it, a mix of muscles and monsters that knows their job and gets down to it.
This review, like Arnold, is Lean-N-Mean, weighing in at a concise 666 words.
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