Doug’s Cinematic Firsties is a recurring series wherein Douglas Laman (A.K.A. NerdInTheBasement) will review a well-known classic motion picture that he’s never seen before.
Each of the three Predator movies has been firmly set in the universe of the original Predator feature from 1986, but they’ve also all tried to go in their own different direction with brand new aesthetics and none of them retain characters from prior movies. That makes Predator an odd outlier in the world of Hollywood franchises that typically either constantly reboot things or cling onto mythology like there’s no tomorrow. The film that established this as the go-to pattern for Predator sequels was 1990’s Predator 2, which traded in Arnold Schwarzenegger for Danny Glover and moved the action from a remote jungle to the city of Los Angeles in the then-future year of 1997.
It is here that we meet our protagonist, Lieutenant Mike Hannigan (Danny Glover), a cop who is trying to save his city from two warring factions of criminal gangs comprised entirely of racist stereotypes. Everything’s already extremely troubled in this city before some new force begins slaughtering local crime lords in a way that Hannigan has never seen before. Turns out, this new third party causing grisly mayhem in Los Angeles is a Predator who has made this city his new hunting ground. Really, the poster tagline for Predator 2 sums up this whole premise better than I ever could: “He’s in town with a few days to kill.”
That first Predator movie was already a ridiculous creation what with its climax hinging on muddy Schwarzenegger lobbing swear words at an alien being so it’s really saying something Predator 2 somehow manages to be even goofier than its predecessor. What with all the cringe-inducing racial stereotypes and characters that practically romp through fields of posies proclaiming how clearly they’re just one-line descriptions of a broad personality (this is especially true of an amusing performance from Bill Paxton as a young guy who is an expert in any challenge he comes across), it’s a feature that settles for being run-of-the-mill schlock, one whose crime-ridden setting and glimmers of social commentary (there’s a slimy paparazzi figure following the characters who seems like a precursor to Alex Jones) that make this feel like a low-rent knock-off of the original RoboCop in some respects.
This is a sharp contrast to the more substantive original that managed to mix alien action with a compelling atmosphere of mystery hewing closely to the works of Agatha Christie. Now, while this is a lesser movie than the first Predator, Predator 2 is still serviceable more often than not in its own right. Much of this comes from a cast that seems to recognize what kind of motion picture they’re in and just roll with the punches from there by delivering some endearing line readings. It’s certainly amusing to see Danny Glover play off of all of this grisly science-fiction carnage and Bill Paxton is full of delightful energy in a woefully small supporting role. Also odd to remember that there was a time that Gary Busey (who plays our human villain) showed up in movies as just an actor and not as an extended reference to his real-life persona.
Much of the performances have this slick goofy charm to them that more of Predator 2 could have used, so much of the film is just too much on the side of dour to register as actually fun while a number of action scenes are rendered visually coherent by odd pieces of editing designed to tone the violence down so that the movie can earn an R-rating. The decision to film a pivotal subway fight with lighting that comes in and out of the scene at random intervals renders so much of the scene incoherent, thus further undermining any potential thrills Predator 2 could offer. But at least the climax comes through in providing some entertaining goofiness, I’ll give this film that.
Danny Glover goes mano a mano with the nefarious Predator in Predator 2’s finale and it’s a lot of fun to watch, particularly one brief part of the showdown wherein the Predator breaks into a random ladies bathroom to heal his wounds as Glover shimmies down a pipe after him. It’s a totally ridiculous moment in a similarly absurd ending, but this is the kind of entertaining daffiness more of Predator 2 should have offered. At least Predator 2 rises above the level of quality seen in the weakest sequels for fellow 20th Century Fox R-rated sci-fi horror franchise Alien. I’ll take Predator 2 over Alien: Resurrection and Alien: Covenant any day of the week, did any of those movies have a middle-aged women with a broom prepare to attack a murderous alien beast? I thought not!