RETRO REVIEW: “Predator” (1987)

PREDposter

I grew up in the heyday of the beefcake action genre and I’m not going to lie – I loved it. Throughout the 1980’s to the mid 1990’s names like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Norris, Van Damme, and Seagal had a constant presence in movie houses across the country. Granted, when looked at through a more discerning eye, lots of their films were much of the same. But even some of the bad ones were undeniably entertaining.

And then you had the really good ones. These movies were not only fun during their day, but they have stood the critical and evaluative test of time. Tops on that list may be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Predator” from 1987. This energetic mix of military action and creature science-fiction still stands as a genre classic.

PRED1

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Schwarzenegger plays Dutch, the leader of an elite special forces rescue unit. He and his team are summoned to Central America after a helicopter carrying a cabinet minister crashes in the guerrilla-occupied jungle. Dutch is tasked with finding the wreckage and bringing back the survivors. He reluctantly allows CIA Agent and old military pal Dillon (Carl Weathers) to tag along.

The six-man unit plus Dillon find the wreckage and discover the bodies of its passengers skinned and hanging in a tree. The team’s tracker (Sonny Landham) picks up a trail that leads them to a guerrilla camp (and to one of my favorite pure action sequences of the decade). Dutch and his team takes out the camp, learn why they were really sent in, and then venture deeper into the hostile jungle towards an extraction point.

But then things take a turn. Since the beginning director John McTiernan drops hints that there is something else in the jungle; something perhaps not so human. When this otherworldly creature takes out a couple of Dutch’s men it becomes clear that the humans have now become the prey.

Brothers Jim and John Thomas wrote what would become their signature screenplay. Their cohesive blend of straight action, survival elements, and sci-fi thrills inject “Predator” with a cool and unique identity. It all leads to an unexpectedly primal final act that pits brawn versus beast. Is it silly? You betcha. But it’s also a ton of fun.

Pred2

© 2019 20th Century Fox All Rights Reserved

Obviously this is Schwarzenegger in his prime, but “Predator” is one of the first movies where he begins to show a better understanding of the acting process. Clearly he has a dominating physical screen presence, but this performance sees him as more human than robotic. A game supporting cast including Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham brings even more muscle and personality.

There have been several attempts to recapture the magic formula of McTiernan’s original “Predator” but none have really come close. Sure, some may find it easy to dismiss the film as more 80’s meat-headed action. But “Predator” not only stands out in what was a crowded action genre, but it has held up extremely well for over thirty years. And I’ll confidently herald it as being among Schwarzenegger’s very best films.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

 

36 thoughts on “RETRO REVIEW: “Predator” (1987)

    • A REALLY big part of me agrees with you. I just couldn’t determine how much of my personal bias to show. LOL. I genuinely love this movie and have watched it countless times over the years. It probably should get a 5.

  1. Concur. A somewhat strange transition from the opening setup of the commando team to the scifi part, but it actually works fine (love that scene where they shoot up the jungle). Has a scene I’ve always I found be just amazing visually, found it on YouTube, this one – https://youtu.be/mGLXbK2XWMY?t=87

  2. This was a blast in theatres back in 87. It’s held up so well and I think it’s one of Arnold’s best. It was cool how they teased the Predator as well. Great cast worked well with the action,humor and classic Arnold one-liners. For a sci-fi,action and touch of monster/alien mash-up, it is pretty seamless .It always gets a few views every year from me. Too bad the sequels just don’t work.

    • You are so right about the sequels. And it seems like an easy recipe for good sci-fi action movies. Unfortunately none of the follow ups have that same magic as the original. It’s a shame really.

  3. I couldn’t agree more: lots of muscular garbage in those days, but this is an exceptional movie! I’ll put a link to your review below the one I wrote on my blog as soon as I can! :–)

  4. Whenever I think Arnie, I immediately think Predator and Total Recall. I don’t know which one I love more. Predator is such an AWESOME action movie in a really cool setting, Total Recall has an amazing high-concept premise with one of Arnie’s most classic lines ever.

    • I love a lot of Arnie’s movies even some of the ones that I know aren’t all that great. Sure there are some that are pure stinkers. “Predator”…it’s a freaking classic.

  5. Pingback: Predator: Movie Review

  6. “I ain’t got time to bleed”

    I love this movie. Arnold from Conan the Barbarian to True Lies could rarely do wrong. I loved his action films as he, Stallone, Willis, Norris, and Van Damme pretty much defined the action film genre. They never took themselves seriously and they made no apologizes for it. Arnold in particular as I think in the years in doing action films, he got better as an actor as I think John McTiernan, James Cameron, and Ivan Reitman were able to play to his strengths but also allow him to grow slowly through his limitations as an actor. I’d still wish Kindergarten Cop would be in the Criterion Collection.

    Then there’s Steven Seagal. He’s made a few good films but everything else is the same as there’s no humor in him. He takes himself way too seriously which explains why he runs like a bitch.

    • “You got time to duck?”

      Ha! I’m with you. SO many great lines, some fist-pumping action, awesome cast. This is the cream of the 80’s action crop. I’m such a big fan of it. My brother and I had so much fun during that genre’s run. Yes, True Lies is terrific. But I like movies like Commando, Raw Deal, and of course Terminator and T2.

      And I love what you said about most of those guys. The didn’t take themselves too seriously. That was key.

  7. Great post Keith. I grew up in the age of beefcake action films as well and loved this movie. The beefcake comment reminded me of the line “Dillon! You son of a bitch!” in a scene where Schwarzenegger and Weathers clasp hands in a manly handshake with the camera zooming in on flexing biceps. A most gratuitous shot. Anyone remember that?

  8. We might be from the same generation Keith. Thinking of it now, here is a top 10 list of 80’s action movies:
    1) Die Hard
    2) Aliens
    2) Predator
    3) Total Recall
    4) Lethal Weapon
    5) Rambo 3
    6)Die Hard 2
    7)Robocop
    8)Lethal Weapon 2
    9)The Terminator
    10) Bloodsport

    Am wondering if this was the height of the action film genre. And it was also fun because there was no internet to read about the movie and a lot less spoilers back then.

    • Oh there are some really great movies on that list. Aliens is probably my #1 but who doesn’t love Die Hard? And I love seeing Rambo III there. It has always been one of my favorites from the 80s action genre. And then there’s Bloodsport. I recently rewatched about half of it on TV. The acting is just atrocious, but still it has such a nostalgic pull for me. 👍🏼

      • agreed about the acting in Bloodsport. lol.would probably be a bit difficult to watch today. In regards to the list, might as well make honorable mentions for Above the law and Escape from New York.

      • Oh yes. Seen those too. Back to Arnie, I have a real soft spot for Commando and Raw Deal. Can’t count how many times I watched those two on VHS.

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