|Directed by:||John McTiernan|
|Written by:||Jim Thomas, John Thomas|
|Cast:||Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke|
I'll start off by saying I wasn't one of those guys who grew up with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone as my role model. I saw Arnold strictly as fodder for jokes, because the man was SO huge, and that accent has taken me out of his movies more than a few times. It really wasn't until I saw "True Lies" and realized he could make fun of himself that I started to respect this guy's movie career.
I first saw this movie maybe ten years ago, when I was taking a movie class (not a film class, a movie class) back in high school, and someone selected it to watch. What I remembered was how ridiculously huge all the actors were. Particularly when they're setting the trap for the Predator, and Carl Weathers, who has so far been portrayed as a bit of a desk jockey, goes shirtless, and looks almost as big as Arnold.
I also had somehow remembered Jesse Ventura as the one who shot up the whole rainforest with the mini-gun, rather than Bill Duke.
On watching it again, it gave me a greater appreciation of this movie as entertainment. Often thrown together with the innumerable testosterone-fueled action movies of the '80s, in John McTiernan they find a director able to milk this thing for all it's worth.
After the initial space sequence, the movie seems to focus on a seemingly unrelated story. The way that Dutch and his team are introduced emphasizes a rather ridiculous collection of manly men and a now-cliched chopper scene. Even the brief appearance of manly man of yesteryear, R.G. Armstrong, emphasizes this movie's utter testosterone.
From there on out this movie plays like two separate movies mashed together. There's the Guys on a Mission movie, which though well executed, wouldn't have been enough to keep me interested, because one of Arnold's faults is that whenever he's in a gunfight, it's hard to feel suspense. The raid on the enemy camp also includes a rather cringe-worthy line "Stick around," said to the guy Arnie just nailed with his big-ass army knife. But it is always a hoot to see Jesse Ventura rip people apart with his mini-gun. And I do love his delivery of "I don't have time to bleed."
After the firefight these manlier than manly men are saddled with one female companion (Elpidia Carrillo), who is there just to look pretty, scared, and ratchet up the tension as things turn from bad to worse. It's clever the way they make sense of keeping her around. Apparently Weathers' Company man believes she could divulge information about the further workings of the group these guys just massacred.
Now, having shown us how totally badass these guys are, to take out a whole compound without losing a man, they find themselves getting picked off, one by one, by the title creature. It plays a little like a reverse of "First Blood," with an "Alien"-like enemy. And here is where it's kind of surprising how real these larger-than-life characters can be. Ventura's Blain is mostly a comic-relief guy, and Arnold is, well, Arnold. But the great Bill Duke seems intent on really selling his scary, scared, but cool-under-fire Mac as a real guy. And Sonny Landham, the only one even approaching Schwarzenegger in stature, gives a quiet, creepy performance as the one guy who seems to first grasp that something is going on in the jungle.
And the jungle. McTiernan really uses i to his advantage. The way that every hill or bunch of trees looks different, but you kind of have to trust that these guys aren't just lost. With the trees closing in, even when the Predator isn't around, you kind of wonder.
I have to wonder about how Arnold's character survived where his men died. But the final showdown is pretty epic, only in that the Predator is the only enemy who ever actually made me think Arnold could lose. And he is also extremely intelligent. And "one ugly motherfucker." Watching the final battle, and for that matter the way that Schwarzenegger didn't try to dominate the movie as the One True Badass, makes this probably his second best performance, after the Terminator movies (which best utilized his rather monotone accent).
I don't think this movie is quite on a par with the best of the "Alien" movies, though comparisons are inevitable. But this is certainly a guys movie that is greater than the sum of its parts. You could pick it apart pretty easily, but what's the fun in that?