Way back in 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in what was arguably his second biggest/best role -after The Terminator, of course- as Dutch in the classic horror/action hybrid Predator…
The movie, directed by John McTiernan (whose next film following this was the criminally forgotten Die Hard… 😉 ), managed to mix horror and action in equal doses and, further, presented a villain in the form of the alien Predator which was truly fearsome and made one wonder how someone as seemingly invincible as Mr. Schwarzenegger would survive.
Three years later a sequel to that film appeared. Cleverly (I kid, I kid) titled Predator 2, the 1990 sequel was directed by Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, numerous TV credits including 24) and starred Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Bill Paxton…
Unlike Aliens, the sequel to the terrific Alien, the movie wasn’t a huge box-office hit or held in as high esteem. Despite this, the Predator creature proved popular enough to appear in several subsequent films, up to and including last year’s The Predator.
I was curious to re-watch Predator 2 (don’t ask why), and a couple of nights ago I put it on, sat back, and watched it. I found it a most curious experience.
The movie takes the original Predator’s setting from the jungles into the then near future L.A. (the movie, as mentioned, was released in 1990 but the film’s opening states the action takes place in 1997). This near future L.A. was heavily influenced by the original Robocop. It is a hellscape of disorder, gangs, and heavy guns; of cops overwhelmed and dealing with sleazy TV reporters (including a cameo by the late right wing mouth-breather Morton Downey Jr.) eager to report on the latest street-level outrage.
The movie is certainly ambitious in presenting a very full cast of characters. It begins by introducing us to Danny Glover’s Lt. Harrigan (the movie’s protagonist) and his crew. The crew consists of his right hand man Archuleta (Ruben Blades) and right hand woman Cantrell (Maria Conchita Alonso). When introduced they are involved in a street level gang gunfight that’s gone out of control. Thanks to the actions of Harrigan, the bad guys retreat into a building. As Harrigan is about to order a raid on that building, he gets an order from above that he’s to stand down, that someone else will take care of the hoods.
Renegade as he is, Harrigan ignores orders and his crew raid the building. Within the crew find a grisly and bloody massacre. One gang banger is left alive and Harrigan pursues him to the roof and wipes him out. Afterwards, Harrigan spots something… strange (though fans of the original Predator know what it is): A weird figure who isn’t quite visible.
Back on the street, Harrigan is reamed out by Captain Heinemann (Robert Davi, pretty much wasted in what amounts to a cameo role as the cliched “stern Captain”). Another, strange group of people arrive at the scene and take over. They are led by an equally strange Peter Keyes (Gary Busey, also in what amounts to a cameo role), who seem to know more about what’s going on than they’re willing to say.
Once back at the station Harrigan and company meet newbie -and loudmouth- Lambert (Bill Paxton, playing a mild variation of his smart-ass Aliens character) and, with the cast in place, we get to the mystery of what’s killing the violent gangs of L.A., and whether the creature behind these massacres has targeted Harrigan and his people as well.
The problem with Predator 2 versus the first movie is that there are too many moving parts. As I mentioned, Robert Davi’s “stern Captain” is a cliche of a character and, frankly, could have been done away with to give the story proper more time to breath. Further, I got the feeling the theatrical cut of the film left plenty of scenes on the cutting room floor.
Perhaps the biggest example of this is when Harrigan presents to the crusty (another cliche) lab lady the Predator spear-head for examination. Only thing is: We never see Harrigan get the spear head. A certain character gets it before they… get it, but we never see Harrigan pick the piece of evidence up. It’s left to a clumsy voice over to have Harrigan states he got it from a dead person’s hand but never see that actual scene.
Eventually Harrigan goes mano-a-mano with the Predator, and it is in this prolonged bit that the movie’s logic takes its hardest fall. It’s simply impossible to believe after seeing the fierce Predator of the first movie to believe Harrigan could go after this Predator like he does… and actually have him on the run.
Finally, the climactic way Harrigan takes out this Predator requires the fearsome and clever alien become incredibly stupid and allow him(it?)self to get within stabbing distance of our hero.
So, yeah, as a sequel to the wonderful original, Predator 2 falls short.
However, and after saying all this, Predator 2 is far from the worst sequel to a terrific original film I’ve seen. There are serious problems with the film but I admired the film’s makers ambitions even if they ultimately fell short of the mark.