Shane Black writes the chewiest, funniest tough-guy dialogue in the movies. So having the writer-director of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “The Nice Guys” in charge of “The Predator” reboot was sure to pay dividends.
He’s a born smart-ass, and lines like “It’s an alien Whoopi Goldberg” describing the dreadlocked hunter-killer from space were sure to pop up, delivered at screwball comedy speed.
A kid (Jacob Tremblay) whose dad is an Army sniper tells the blue uniformed fellow making a delivery and asking too many questions this — “He kills people so you can be a mailman.”
That dad (Boyd Holbrook) is being interrogated after his “encounter with a space alien,” and is asked, “You think you’re being railroaded?”
“I see the tracks on the floor!”
Black is also the guy who scripted “Last Action Hero,” and on “The Predator,” he thought it would be a good idea to cast an old buddy who is also a convicted sex offender, and that actress Olivia Munn would be OK with that.
So Shane Black’s also the opposite of a “smart” ass, if that’s not too subtle.
Both Blacks are on display in this, the sixth film in this spree-killing “alien Whoopi Goldberg” franchise. It’s got the same macho camaraderie as the 1987 original film, and with the Baron of Butch Banter writing zingers for Holbrook, Munn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane and Sterling K. Brown, the only question at the end would be “Which two folks in this ‘Predator’ will be the ones elected governor in 10 years?”
Or it would be if the not-smart “ass” Black hadn’t shown up about 45 minutes in, delivered a “cuddly” alien hunting dog, muddling up the non-competing agendas of the teams of humans killing each other (Sterling K. Brown plays a mysterious villain) and generally drivimg this thing into the “ENOUGH already” zone of most of the previous Predator pictures.
Holbrook, who made a very good heavy in “Logan,” plays Quinn the sniper on a stalk in Mexico when a space ship crashes right in the middle of a hostage rescue. He loses his team, but grabs alien gear on site, mails it to his old hometown where his little boy (Tremblay) and ex-wife (Yvonne Strahovski of “The Handmaid’s Tale”) are sure to get their hands on it.
Actually, it’s the savant-brilliant “on the spectrum” little boy who gets his mind around the alien tech helmet and weaponized gauntlet. Halloween is about to get VERY interesting for the bullies in little Rory’s neighborhood.
“Leave me ALONE!”
“Or what, you’ll wash your hands 500 times?”
Dad Quinn finds himself on a military “loony” prison bus filled with misfits like “Nebraska” (Trevante Rhodes of “Moonlight”) and “toughs” played by Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera and the funniest of all — Thomas Jane as a disturbed GI with Tourette Syndrome. I’ll let you guess what he insists was “Sheesh, you’re pushy,” that he blurted out and offended the alien contact biologist (Olivia Munn) who falls in with them.
Jane and Key are so funny they could take their act on the road.
But in addition to the other un-PC gags, Black tries to wring laughs out of eviscerations, beheadings and dismemberments as aliens and humans take the measure of each other and hurl a lot of firepower into the firmament.
The body count and blood and guts gets old in an instant. And while there’s something inherently hilarious in casting Jake Busey as a lab-coated scientist, the manic combat in between the blasts of banter is wearying.
The predators are always picking people up, then killing off the bit players, letting the leads live on to fight in another scene.
These have always been movies better suited to being video games, and that may be the fate of “The Predator,” too. It’s just that video games don’t mold tough-guy images the way movies do, and nobody from a video game ever got elected governor on “I ain’t got TIME” to bleed.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references
Running time: 1:47