There were some who scoffed at the idea of The Predator getting the opening Midnight Madness slot at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. A blockbuster at the festival formally known as the “People’s Festival”?! Playing in a program where R-ratings are considered baby stuff?! What were they thinking?! Well settle down snobby fictional avatar. You need not be concerned. Shane Black’s throwback to hulking hunting monsters and the men (plus a lady! and a child!) who fight them is indeed a thrilling romp filled with more than enough bloody kills, dripping entrails, pretty explosions, zingy one-liners, and gearshift shocks to please the midnight crowd as much as a Friday day multiplex audience.
There is a plot, but it’s not really worth spoiling or exploring here. Basically it’s a Dirty Dozen vs. The Predator movie fused with a Little Kid vs. The Predator movie and a Sexy Scientist vs. The Predator movie thrown in for good measure. Any one of those simple sequel takes on an old blockbuster might have been a touch tiresome, but weaved together in the script by Shane Black (alongside the welcome return of his former roommate Fred Dekker) there’s just enough competing elements to weave in some surprises. The tone is snarky and self-referential in the Shane Black way, filled with amusing callbacks to the original film as well as gentle reinventions of old Predator tropes. The laughs come on consistently and the action is big and brutal in ways that are all too rare in a franchise blockbuster.
Of course, as much as Shane Black and co. were able to slap a fresh coat of paint on The Predator franchise, there are still some of the problems that plague most films of this scale. The editing and pacing can feel a bit choppy as the movie rushes towards the climax, clearly the result of reshoots and re-edits in the rush to release (Look ma, alliteration!). Those forever frustrated by that unfortunate reality of massive modern movie making will find nits to pick. Everyone else will simply be having too much fun to notice. If the prospect of a Shane Black Predator movie was even remotely appealing to you in theory, rest assured that it’ll fulfill all of your expectations. This is one big glorious romp about one the greatest ugly motherfuckers in the history of monster movies. Inject popcorn straight into your veins and enjoy the ride.