Tuesday, August 9, 2022


Throwback Tuesday takes us back to the summer of 1987 and the team-up between director John McTiernan and and action star Arnold Schwarzenegger which gave us Predator. While I wouldn't rank Predator as his best film, it's certainly worthy to be in the discussion coming during the greatest stretch of his career between 1984 and 1991 when he starred in The Terminator, Commando, Predator, The Running Man, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Set somewhere in the rainforest of Central America, a paramilitary rescue team is brought in to rescue hostages deep in the jungle. Although Dutch (Schwarzenegger) was requested by an old friend (Carl Weathers), it doesn't take long for the team's commander to realize someone is lying to him and this isn't the mission he signed up for. Of course things get even more complicated when someone unseen starts killing off his men one by one.

There's a lot going on in the first half-hour of the script by Jim Thomas and John Thomas setting up the team members and the mission which turns out to be more about killing an entire encampment than rescuing non-existent hostages. Along the way the film will also tease both the team and the audience on the malevolent hunter, camouflaged from view, and stalking the jungle through a kind of thermal vision (which is often shown to allow us to see the monster's point of view). It's only after discovering the skinned bodies of Green Berets, and having two of his men killed, does Dutch start to understand the trouble he's dealing with.

The soldiers are mostly your typical mix of mostly one-note characters (those that survive long enough to get at least minimal character development, that is) in the too-rough-to-bleed Blain (Jesse Ventura), Bill Duke as the intense Mac, Sonny Landham as the team's tracker, the serious Poncho (Richard Chaves), and Shane Black as the team's goof. The team also picks up a hostage from the encampment in Elpidia Carrillo who provides some more information about the odd occurrences of the jungle but is primarily there for her reaction shots to the carnage that will unfold before her eyes.

The original plan was for Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the Predator underneath the make-up and prosthetics. However, his much smaller stature to that of the film's star, and some of the other members of the team, and Van Damme's dislike of the suit eventually caused the part to be recast with the much more formidable Kevin Peter Hall taking over the role (and allowing the Predator to grow from 5'9" to a more imposing 7'2"). While Van Damme's athleticism and martial arts training certainly would have made for a different kind of antagonist, the creature, often hidden behind its camouflage, and when revealed beneath some pretty impressive costuming, simply didn't require a star of his stature to be hidden underneath.

Predator is a perfect blend of heavy 80s machismo action and a horror story. It's not all that surprising the film eventually comes down to Dutch versus the alien from another world, but the film does a fairly good job of teasing the possibility that America's top action star may not make it out of the jungle alive. It's also interesting to note that although Dutch eventually makes it to the choppa, the film doesn't end in celebration. Dutch may have narrowly survived, but his team is dead and his future uncertain.

The film hit big at the box office. Predator was the tenth-highest earner of the year behind films such as Lethal Weapon, The Secret of My Success, Three Men and a Baby, The Untouchables, Platoon, and Beverly Hills Cop II. It would garner new fans, and find some of the critical respect lacking during its initial release, on home video. It's popularity would lead to novels, comics, video games, toys, and a series of (mostly bad) sequels (the exception of which is currently streaming on Hulu).

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Predator
  • IMDb: link
  • Title: Predator
  • IMDb: link

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