I come not to bury Predator 2, but to praise it to the darkening skies above a war-torn LA in Stephen Hopkins’ neglected sequel. This is, IMHO, the best Predator movie, better than all the Alien films, first two aside. It’s action packed, bloody, exciting, expands the mythology and just works; I get that some will feel I’m trolling, but the truth is…I love Predator 2.
So what went so very right? With Arnie not coming back, the money that might have gone in a big-star salary was used to create a fantastic dystopian future-world for the then future of 1997. Canny use of the freshly built LA subway helps convince us that this is something more real than the usual art-director’s dream. Danny Glover, a serious actor with gravitas-up-the-wazoo, steps into the protagonist’s large shoes, and brings a weary, everyman quality that sets him apart from the usual strongman act. And the urban setting allows for ferocious gun, car and collapsing building action that’s easily the best of the franchise.
Some critics say this is a rote sequel; to them I say, did you honestly expect to see the Predator using a suburban bathroom, only to get chased out by an old lady with a broom and curlers, straight out of Tom and Jerry? Thought not. In fact, there’s lots of surprising things here, from the support (Bill Paxton from Aliens might be expected, but Grammy-winning musician Ruben Blades, 80’s stalwart Jake Busey in a spacesuit, Morten Downey Jr as a crazed tv reporter?) to the massive, carrot-shaped blunts most of the characters smoke. And just so things aren’t too much of a sausage festival, Maria Conchita Alonso kicks ass every bit as much as the guys. And the setting is a winner too, a gang-battle between Jamaican and Columbia warlords that’s explored in some detail; arguably the best single-kill here is King Willie’s demise at the hands of the super-charged Predator. Another set piece, as the Predator demolishes the gun-toting occupants of a subway car, is a miracle of flashing lights and suggestion.
This is a Joel Silver production, so expect plenty of bang for your buck. And it’s also post-Verhoeven, so expect satire around the edges as per Robocop and Total Recall. Franchise pics are ten a penny, but I’d be quite happy to see a Predator movie every year if they were as visceral and imaginative as this. With non-stop action, plus a huge man to predator love-in for the finale, Predator 2 is the yardstick by which any great sequel should be judged. Nay-sayers, please feel free to line up in the comments section; be prepared to be skinned one by one and have your corpse unceremoniously hung from the nearest building…