15 June 2009

Retro Review: Predator 2 (1990)


D

Predator 2
1990, 108mins, R
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writer (s): Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Cast includes: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Maria Cochita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Ruben Blades
Release Date: 21st November 1990


“Predator 2” is pretty much lacking In everything that made the original an exuberant and colorful spoon full of science fiction terror, a sequel far to drawn out and with a good deal to little focus aimed at the monster itself. For nearly half its runtime “Predator 2” is far more interested in regaling the audience with a stale L.A drug war, simply using the monster as a primer for added violence. The original was a lean, beautifully composed and terrifically claustrophobic affair; this is just a tepid and insanely loose attempt at replicating that productions success. It also doesn’t help matters that as the hero Danny Glover is woefully miscast, ambling around pitifully and making one yearn for a little bit of Schwarzenegger machismo.

Gang warfare has gripped Los Angeles in a tight and unrelenting grasp, Jamaican and Columbian drug lords pummeling each other on the streets whilst bystanders are caught in the middle and the cops try to quell the carnage. Lt. Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) is one of the officers working to subdue the chaos when he stumbles upon a band of slaughtered gang members, dispatched in ways so grisly that it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t the work of street warfare. Harrigan and his slim band of loyal followers pursue the case but a government operative Keyes (Gary Busey) is drafted in, leaving Harrigan and company locked out of the investigation. As more gang members and civilians bite the dust Keyes seems to remain one step ahead of Harrigan , but it quickly transpires for both men that the perpetrator of these heinous crimes may not be of this world.

I adore “Predator” and can even find small things to like about the two “AVP” spinoff films but when it comes to “Predator 2” I struggle to see any real appeal. It’s a dull and over plotted picture featuring atrocious acting, one dimensional characters and a rather unimpressive roster of alien induced violence. Sci-fi junkies are unlikely to see heir pulse transcend a lukewarm norm whilst watching “Predator 2”, it has nothing of any real worth or excitement to add to the creature’s legacy and large portions of the project feel like they could have been constructed without the monsters participation.

Danny Glover is simply lost as the male lead in “Predator 2”, not even making a respectable attempt at filling the supersize boots left vacant by Arnie. Glover can make good on a punch line (precious few are provided here) but as an acceptable action substitute he’s a real barrel scraper of a replacement. The energy is never there and anybody who thinks Danny stands a fighting chance against a Predator must be coked out of their mind. I wouldn’t say the same about those providing Schwarzenegger with that accolade. Gary Busey delights in overacting as Glover’s Federal rival whilst Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton slum it terribly as Harrigan’s LAPD cohorts. Paxton can now boast about appearing in the initial sequels in both the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises, but whilst the “Alien” follow up was seminal classic “Aliens” appearing in “Predator 2” is far less of an accomplishment.

The Predator itself still looks cool and wields a vast array of gadgets but director Stephen Hopkins never imposes him on us long enough for true fear to set in. He spends vast amounts of his film rambling about street gang politics and making vapid attempts to add a little depth to proceedings but it only goes to make the picture ever more boring. When I watch a monster movie there’s one ingredient you can’t skimp on…..monster. For the first half of Hopkins film bar fleeting glimpses you could be forgiven for thinking you weren’t actually watching a sequel to a creature feature of certified brilliance. It just seems like a dumb ass movie about street gang warfare featuring a serial killer with kick ass camouflage. Not exactly what the diehards are clamoring for.

“Predator 2” is made further unnecessary by its general unwillingness to think up anything new, the screenplay has simply planted the animal in a made for TV story and added a few of the gory elements that peppered part one. We get plenty of skinned guys and blood flows at a commendable rate but there is nothing new to see and no thrill present that couldn’t be replicated tenfold by watching the original. There is one terrific scene in “Predator 2” in which a band of government cronies try to catch the beast in a neon lit warehouse, it’s suspenseful, unpredictable and features very little in the way of Danny Glover. Had the rest of the film been more willing to follow this template the final result might have been far more satisfying.

The conclusion is notable only in that it provided the initial glimpse of the Predator space craft, and of course due to the presence of an “Alien” skull in a trophy cabinet it birthed the very concept of “AVP”. The ending wraps up pretty much like one would suspect and rarely provides anything above the bare minimum of entertainment value, such an unadventurous final confrontation surely more worthy of a direct to video flick than a highly anticipated sci-fi sequel. “Predator 2” is a painfully labored science fiction production, never brave enough to succeed and devoid of the merits that made the original film such a wonderful work of escapism. A flaccid and mostly wasteful attempt at brash cinema, “Predator 2” deserves to be hunted down and skinned by fans everywhere.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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