Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Favorite Era: Predator (1987)

Predator is one of the great action films of the 80's.  A hybrid of Aliens and Rambo, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch, the leader of an elite military unit assigned to locate some hostages in the South American jungle.  Things get interesting when after finding the hostages have been killed they are stalked on the way to a pickup location by a mysterious hunter who begins to kill them one at a time until Arnold is the only one left who can stop it.  Tons of action, a great monster, some killer quips from Arnold, let's get into a few reasons why this film is so damn awesome.
  • I think the first thing that needs to be mentioned is just how awesome the cast is.  Besides Arnold, you get great badasses like Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and another favorite of mine, Sonny Landham.  Landham is an interesting guy who has been in quite a few movies, usually as a villain and apparently there was a bodyguard on set for him.  Not to protect him, mind you...For everyone else.  Like I said, an interesting guy.
  • The script by Jim and John Thomas is a nicely sparse bit of screenwriting that sets up the characters nicely in the first few minutes and then just lets you immerse yourself in the world they create.  One generally doesn't think much talent goes into writing a movie like this but writing a good action script is a surprisingly challenging task.  I've always been in favor of lean, efficient storytelling and this film is one of the best examples of it.
  • "Long Tall Sally" is a great way to transition to the team entering the jungle and the scene itself is a wonderfully slick bit of efficient character building.  I also love how hilariously badass the team is.  Even the comic book fan with glasses (screenwriter Shane Black) is cool!
  • Love the tension between Dillon (Weathers) and the rest of the team.
  • The way John McTiernan directs the movie gives the film a great overall sense of claustrophobia.  You can almost feel how ungodly nasty it must be to be in the jungle lugging around military gear.
  • In general, McTiernan was a very solid director for the most part with this film, Die Hard and Hunt for Red October being his best.
  • The reveal of the skinned bodies is one of the best shocks in the film.  It really grabs you by the throat when you first see it and when you know it's coming, it's almost worse in a way.
  • The long assault on the guerrilla base camp works on a few levels.  First off, it's a fantastic action scene and second, it serves as a nice bit of misdirection.  Up to that point, aside from the opening shot in space and a POV shot from the Predator, there is no indication that this will turn into a horror film with an alien.  By giving the audience an extended bit of Arnold doing what he does best, it helps to make the alien angle even more effective.
 Really, the entire action scene is great but here are a few of my favorite bits:
  • Arnold kicking things off by lifting a truck up and pushing it down a hill.  After that, you just have to laugh and say "Okay, go wild, film!  Give it all you can!"
  • Blain (Ventura) and his mini-gun.  God, that thing is still awesome!  His "I ain't got time to bleed!" line is also a classic.
  • Arnold firing a short burst from his rifle and in the next shot, three guys standing next to each other drop dead. 
  • The scene of the still-unseen Predator looking around the site of the battle is wonderfully creepy, though the music sting when we see its hand is maybe a little much.  Still cool though.
  • Once our heroes are in the jungle (now with captive Anna, played by Elpidia Carillo), the story really kicks in nicely as one by one they are hunted and killed.  The kills are quite nasty as well with huge gouts of blood.  Gotta love the 80's.
  • Bill Duke slowly going nuts is great.  His last stand with Dillon against the Predator is also great, though it can be argued Dillon gets the better death scene.  It's not easy to top having a head exploded, but having an arm blown off while firing a gun (that still fires after the severing) manages to do it.
  • Arnold vs. the Predator is one of the best extended climaxes in an action film.  From the setting of the traps to the primal scream to the cat and mouse game the two play to the hand-to-hand and explosive finale, it all works perfectly.  Hell, even the out there notion of being able to outrun a nuclear blast works in the film's favor.
  • Stan Winston really outdid himself with the design of the Predator.  It's impressively ugly and there's a very good reason it became iconic.  Just an awesome bit of work.  Credit also has to go the late Kevin Peter Hall for giving the creature such a great presence.  Truly a prefect blend of acting and special effects.
And that's Predator.  A great movie with a terrific monster makes for one of Arnold's best.  The sequel is worth checking out as well, though it's not nearly as good as this one.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.