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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Review: comedy in 'The Predator' is on-point but the plot lacks sense 

While the script is, on the comedy front, the film’s strongest suit, it’s also its weakest, in terms of the simple fact that none of this makes any sense at all

'The Predator' is in UAE cinemas from Thursday, September 13. AP
'The Predator' is in UAE cinemas from Thursday, September 13. AP

The Predator is back, and he’s big, dumb, brash, and tremendously entertaining, in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

The film could easily have settled into the territory of any number of mindless 2018 action blockbusters (see Tomb Raider, Mission Impossible: Fallout, anything with Dwayne Johnson in it), and the effects, explosions and gore that permeate the movie put it on a par with any of these big budget behemoths.

What seperates the film from such movies, however, is a script from writer/director Shane Black that sees the movie rise above such territory and into the realms of high comedy. This perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise – as a writer, Black has already given the world the 1987 buddy cop comedy classic Lethal Weapon, while as a director he’s delivered too, not least with 2013’s Iron Man 3.

The comedy, along with the iconic Predator himself, is undoubtedly the film’s strong point, and we’re not just talking simple action hero one-liners in the vein of the 1987 original’s star Arnold Schwarzenegger, but genuine, intelligent humour, such as hilarious post-modern debates on the semantics of the nature of predatory behaviour. The banter between the lead characters is absolutely on-point throughout – Keegan Michael Key, of Key and Peele fame, deserves particular praise for a stellar performance as mentally unstable former soldier Coyle.

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Read more: Shane Black talks about 'The Predator' reboot and promises not to go easy on the violence

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Herein lies the quandary with this film though. While the script is, on the comedy front, the film’s strongest suit, it’s also its weakest, in terms of the simple fact that none of this makes any sense at all. None. Not even a tiny, tiny bit of sense. There is less sense in this movie than there is attention to grammatical detail in a Trump Tweet.

The film’s premise should be pretty simple – ruthless alien killing machine comes to Earth and starts killing everyone, ragtag band of army psychiatric patients hunts it down and kills it, big explosive finale, roll credits. What could go wrong?

Everything, as it turns out. Rather than stick to this tried and tested formula, Black starts throwing in all sorts of philosophical and social commentary. That’s fine if you’re making a high-concept sci-fi, but let’s be very clear – The Predator is not high concept sci-fi. It doesn’t need to question social attitudes towards autism, global warming or the very nature of the theory of evolution. And if it must, it should raise them properly, not in a half-baked “ok, we’ve covered that – let’s move onto this, and blow something up too” way that leaves the plot hopping around like a hyperactive flea on a hot frying pan, and the audience wondering what on Earth is happening now.

We won’t go into spoiler territory, but let’s just say as an example that the whole reason that The Predator has returned to earth is because it has acquired item x from humankind, and this could make it even more powerful. This is the whole reason character y is brought into the plot, and character y fully explains that the creature has acquired item x a good 25 minutes before the team set out to stop The Predator acquiring item x, despite the fact that the very reason character y was introduced in the first place is that the terrifying alien has already acquired item x, hence the presence of character y. If that sounds convoluted, wait till you see the rest of it.

None of this is to deny that the film’s great fun, and The Predator itself is as cool as ever. But from the very opening scenes you’ll need to suspend all disbelief, literally all, not just the token amount you expect to suspend for a movie, if you want to avoid spending two hours repeating the phrase “but that doesn’t make any sense” on a continuous loop in your slowly frying brain.

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'The Predator'
Dir: Shane Black
Starring: Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key
Two and a half stars

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