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Shane Black gives “The Predator” his signature clever spin

Aside from the original, the Predator franchise has never fully found its stride. Different takes on the material have bred mixed results, but never a full on success. Now, that changes with The Predator, which finally figured out what was missing. The secret sauce? Shane Black. Opening this week, Black’s take on the series mixes action, comedy, and horror in equal measure. It’s a gory blast, way more fun than you’d expect, and wittier than it has any right to be. It’s low art and a studio outing, to be sure, but Black’s voice is all over the film, from start to finish.

The movie is a hoot. This is how Twentieth Century Fox describes the plot: “From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.” Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is a sniper who witnesses the Predator arrive on Earth. Assumed crazy, he’s paired with a bunch of troubled soldiers, but soon proven right. While Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) wants to capture the warrior, a fight is just getting started. Quinn ends up teamed with the offbeat soldiers (including Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key, and Trevante Rhodes, along with scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), hoping to stay alive. The rest you should find out for yourself. Black co-writes with Fred Dekker and directs. Also in the cast here are Jacob Tremblay as Holbrook’s son, along with Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski, and more. Henry Jackman provides the score, while cinematography is by Larry Fong.

If you like Black’s work, you’ll enjoy The Predator, plain and simple. His jokey attitude, taste for violence, and overall tone are in full effect. He doesn’t take things too seriously, which is key. Black is as interested in the creature’s carnage as he is with the antics of the soldiers. In fact, he may prefer the latter. In a stroke of genius, he has his Predator feature some human DNA, so certain aspects of its “personality” have a modern feel. A moment involving a thumbs up is absolutely hilarious. No one is reinventing the wheel here, but it’s all in service of a film that’s a while lot of fun.

This is how I’d rank Black’s directorial outings to date:

4. Iron Man 3
3. The Predator
2. The Nice Guys
1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Here also is how I’d rank his scripts:

10. The Last Boy Scout
9. The Long Kiss Goodnight
8. Lethal Weapon 2
7. The Monster Squad
6. Iron Man 3
5. The Predator
4. Last Action Hero
3. Lethal Weapon
2. The Nice Guys
1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Finally, this is how I’d rank the films in the Predator franchise so far:

6. Alien Vs Predator
5. Alien Vs Predator: Requiem
4. Predator 2
3. Predators
2. The Predator
1. Predator

Starting on Friday, audiences can see a franchise find new life again when The Predator opens. Arguably, this is the only sequel that’s at all successful, so that’s a plus too. If Black is going to get to play with the series in future installments, count me in. He has the right feel for what makes this whole thing work. We’ll be getting into the awards season shortly, with Oscar hopefuls galore opening up, so until then, this is the sort of crowd pleaser that can tide you over. Give this one a shot and I think you’ll enjoy its unique brand of nuttiness…

Be sure to check out The Predator, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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