Predator (1987): John McTiernan
Arnold, the jungle, muscles, aliens, grenade launchers: it gets no better than Predator.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: An alien hunter haunts the jungle tracking America’s finest soldiers.
Arnold Schwarzenegger makes another star turn as a commando, the head of a team of ruthless killers who storm a compound. If you’re looking for Commando you can find it elsewhere.
Arnold plays Dutch, and that’s all the name you need. We first meet Dutch on the shores of whatever jungled country he and his team are in, when his chopper, that will later be gotten to, opens and disgorges the walking meat hunks under his command. Dutch waits inside. Wearing sunglasses, he lights up a cigar, takes a puff, and saunters into the daylight. It looks as cool as it sounds.
We learn about Dutch from his interaction with old buddy and current pencil pusher Dillon (Carl Weathers). Dutch and his team were great in Berlin, but they passed on the Libya job. “We’re a rescue team,” Dutch says, “not assassins.”
Dillon explains that a cabinet minister is being held hostage by separatist guerrillas deep in the jungle. Dillon will accompany Dutch and his team, leading them to the compound to rescue the cabinet minister. This cabinet minister, “Does he always travel on the wrong side of the border?” Dutch asks.
No. Dillon just wants Dutch because “some damn fool accused you of being the best.” Dutch, under orders, agrees, and they fly into the hot zone.
Before finding the rebel compound, the commandos discover a downed chopper that had carried a batch of Green Berets out of Fort Bragg. They come across three bodies, all skinned and hanging upside down from the trees.
Dutch knew one of the guys, Jim Hopper. Dutch suspects Dillon is not giving him the full truth. Remember Afghanistan? “I’m trying to forget it,” Dutch says. This mission is like déjà vu all over again. Dillon says he didn’t know about any Green Berets. “Somebody sent them,” Dutch says.
Dutch is late to assess the threat of Predator, because he’s busy trying to find the rebel base. When he does, he orders the team into position and all hell breaks loose.
Dutch is a leader today, but he was born a fighter. Witness his flair for the dramatic. Dutch planned to infiltrate the rebel base by attacking the fuel dump. At the last moment, he decides to send a truck into a cantina, blowing up a squad of rebel fighters.
Hell breaks loose. While Dutch’s teammates work the edges, Dutch walks through the base like it’s his Sunday stroll. He unloads a dozen rounds into a hapless rebel coming at him. He grenades a helicopter when its pilots were already dead. Dutch walks through the compound with a hard jawline, like a statued god, gunning down all in his wake.
Nevertheless, Dutch has time for fun. He tells a guy to “Stick around,” after throwing a knife into his gut. He kicks in a door and says, “Knock knock.” Having fun in one’s job is the way to a happy life. As he guns down countless men, he has the look on his face of a man lining up a tough billiards shot.
After subduing the rebels, when Dutch learns that Dillon has sent them on a hit job, he loses his cool. “It’s all bullshit!” Dutch shouts in that Austrian way that only Arnold can make sound frightening and funny at once.
The fun and games end after storming the rebel compound. Dutch has to get his team across the border to reach the extraction chopper. He’s mad at Dillon for the lying and for bringing a former hostage along.
Now the team wanders the jungle. But they are being hunted. Dutch is not the first to figure out that he and his men are being hunted, but he does figure out Predator uses the trees to avoid the clever traps. He also knows that Anna, the former hostage, speaks English, demanding the real story of Hawkins’s death from her and getting it.
In a career-defining moment for Schwarzenegger, Dutch faces Predator for the first time. The alien hunter has shot Poncho, the last surviving commando under Dutch’s command. Anna picks up his gun. Dutch, knowing that the alien only kills those with weapons, kicks the gun away with a resounding “NO!” and empties his M-16 clip into the cloaked Predator. “Get to the choppa!” he shouts at Anna as Predator lasers him in the shoulder.
This short sequence is how a legend gets made. Arnold, already Conan and the Terminator, made Dutch his first modern-day human character the general public saw.
Dutch is stuffed with great lines he spits out like water from a fountain. I mentioned three. You can’t ignore the screamed “Kill me; I’m here!” nor the matter-of-fact “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
Feats of strength are not to be ignored. When Dutch meets Dillon they have an arm wrestling match in the air. The camera frames the two men’s hands and bulging biceps, a testament to their strength and a scene that made me punch the air for its hilarity and brazenness.
Don’t forget that in the end, Dutch survives a nuclear explosion. How many humans could do that? Showing leadership, disgust, raw power, primal fear and strength, and a sense of humor, Arnold’s Dutch is a canon action movie character.
As iconic as Schwarzenegger’s Dutch is, Predator might be more so. Predator is the first actor in Predator (it’s his movie after all), as he falls from space into Earth’s atmosphere. That Predator seems to have hailed a space taxi to fly him to Earth for a hunting trip is a testament to his badass-ery.
Predator is shrouded in mystery for much of the film. We never see his space craft on the ground. We never see his tent, or wherever he lays his head at night. We never see him eat, drink, or sleep. If not for that opening scene in space, we might think Predator was an ancient jungle monster evolved into a perfect killing machine.
It’s a full 20 minutes before we see any part of Predator. He watches Dutch’s team wreck the guerrilla compound from the trees with infrared vision, a trait that will save Dutch’s life before he knows why. That first sight is from Predator’s point of view, as the alien reaches out a razor-clawed hand to grasp a dying scorpion.
Predator soaks up knowledge of his environment. His default noise is a fast clicking sound, but he can mimic human noises. As he descends from the trees, Predator uses a sound mimicking device to learn some speech of humans.
Did I mention the camouflage? Predator has cloaking technology that blends him with the jungle environment. This technology makes him appear like the jungle can come alive and kill a man.
The cloaking allows him to uses his shoulder-mounted laser rifle to kill Earth’s best soldiers. He enjoys swinging through the trees like an ape, perhaps knowing that humans would not expect to be hunted from above.
Predator has flown to Earth to hunt humans for trophies. Many humans die before we learn this motivation. He skins all humans we come across, but not until he takes his final kill, a Native American tracker named Billy (Sonny Landham), do we see why.
Predator slaps Billy’s carcass on a tree branch and, in one fluid motion, rips his spine and skull out of him. Predator has a bag of skulls with him, his trophies for campfire stories back on whatever hell planet spawned him.
Predator hunts with minimal technology. A small first aid kit allows him to repair a bullet wound. Predator pours some goop on his neon green leg wound, then uses a squirt gun to apply more liquids, and finally he clamps the wound shut, shouting a primal scream that terrifies all living creatures in earshot.
Predator kills with either of two weapons: one, a shoulder-mounted laser rifle that is slaved to a three-pointed laser target on his face mask, and two, a retractable double blade on his right forearm.
Facing down Dutch, Predator finds his match and discards the rifle and face mask, but not the blade. He knows he’s on enemy turf, and should hang on to his advantage.
And finally, how about this face?
Dutch and his team storm the rebel compound in a scene of spectacular, over-the-top violence only possible in a decade of excess like the 1980s.
Dutch is first to find the compound after belly sliding through leaves to reach a scouting location. He spots a hostage and witnesses his murder. “We move,” he says to the rest of the team. Groups of two are dispatched to kill the scouts around the hillside and in nests. Once they are killed, easily, with knives, and silently, Dutch signals for war.
Dutch waits behind the back of a truck missing its rear wheels. For some reason the truck’s fan belt runs, its noise masking Dutch’s movement. Dutch makes to attack the fuel dump, but thinks better of it. He slashes the belt and puts a remote grenade in the truck bed. He knows this will be a more dramatic opening. Dutch stands behind the truck, lifts it off the support logs, and lets it roll toward a squad of rebels eating lunch. His men think him nuts.
The truck explodes, killing a dozen or so. “Showtime,” Dillon says. Dutch grenades buildings and men, using a hand grenade and the one on his gun, just for style points. Poncho (Richard Chaves), carrying a grenade launching gun, hits a building surrounded with sandbags. The sandbags do nothing but explode.
Blain (Jesse Ventura), spitting tobacco, opens up the minigun. The rebels get the chopper started, just in time for Dillon to gun them down and for Dutch to drop another grenade into it. Dutch bombs more buildings. These thatch-walled huts explode as if coated with gasoline.
Guys are on fire and being gunned down out of mercy, or joy. Mac (Bill Duke) and Blain sneak through the jungled edge of the base shooting men, while Dillon and Dutch run right through its guts. Mac, pinned down, asks Blain to “get that motherfucker.” Blain turns his minigun on the rebel and explodes the shooter’s nest like a missile strike.
Billy grenades another sandbagged nest and shoots a man into a barrel that both immediately catch fire. Dutch’s team lobs grenades as if they were free t-shirts at baseball games.
The entire team storms the central building where the hostages remain. The rebels are turning tail, but Dutch takes no prisoners. All are killed.
Dutch, his victory assured, practices some quips he’s been developing. He throws his enormous knife into a man’s chest and suggests that he “Stick around.” He kicks a door off its hinges and says, “Knock knock,” before shooting a guy so hard he flies through the back wall.
Predator is a quiet movie that compounds sound in chunks. Most of the time the characters lurk through the jungle, tracking Predator, being tracked by Predator, or searching for the rebel base.
When the time comes for action, Dutch and his men fire off the loudest, grandest weapons money could buy and a man could carry. The sound crew certainly amped up the aural carnage, making us enjoy the moments of quiet.
Dutch has a team worthy of his greatness. Let’s go to the tale of the tape.
NAME: Hawkins (Shane Black); DISTINCTIVE WEAPON: machine gun; DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: Enormous, sweat-dripping glasses.
Hawkins is the trickster of Dutch’s team. Every group has to have a comedian, and Hawkins is it. I think Hawkins has two lines in Predator, and both are pussy jokes.
You might know Shane Black better as the writer/director of Lethal Weapon. I’ve seen Predator at least five times, and only in my latest viewing did I make the connection.
NAME: Poncho; DISTINCTIVE WEAPON: multi-shot grenade launcher; DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: blends in
Poncho is the least distinguished of the team’s members. Somebody had to be. Poncho carries his multi-shot grenade launcher and lobs them like candy at a parade. In one moment, he needs to get at a guy “dug in like an Alabama tick,” so he shoots four grenades into the hillside. Consider those men exterminated.
Unfortunately for Poncho, if you were to forget one member of the team, he’d be it. He takes a log to the gut during the moment they capture Predator in the makeshift net. He’s killed as he is very close to the chopper everyone’s trying to get to.
NAME: Billy; DISTINCTIVE WEAPON: M-16 with attached shotgun, knife the length of his forearm; DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: no chest hair, amulet, loves eye black
Billy is the Native American tracker on the team. That’s pigeon-holing the guy, for sure, but he excels at it. Billy’s tracking skills are Aragorn-level good. For example, Billy is the first to realize that another team of American commandos has already been in the jungle.
Later, when they find the skinned bodies of three of those Green Berets, Billy notes that their shell casings indicate they were firing in all directions, atypical for shooting at a known enemy. He also doesn’t find a single track near them. He wouldn’t, because Predator hunts from the trees, but credit him for not mistaking an animal or human track for the killer of the Green Berets.
I liked the scene in which Billy hacks a vine, sucks the milk, turns to look at something in the trees that he can’t see, and let’s the vine milk drip on his neck and uniform. That sold the realism for me, the immediacy of Predator. It’s part of the reason his colleagues think he’s “been acting squirrelly all morning.”
Billy’s end comes quickly, and off camera. He’s convinced that whatever’s hunting them won’t stop. “We’re all going to die,” he says. He’s scared, and should be. Poncho tells him, “You ain’t afraid of no man.” That’s true because Predator ain’t no man.
Billy makes a final stand. He helps Poncho across a fallen tree toward the chopper they are all trying to get to. He hears Dillon’s death screams and decides that enough is enough. He tosses his gun into the ravine below. Wordlessly, Billy removes his vest and shirt, draws out his knife, and slices it across his chest. His blade is so long that calling it a knife is like calling a bus a car. Moments later, off camera, we hear his final death scream.
NAME: Blain; DISTINCTIVE WEAPON: mini-gun with attached shotgun; DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: MTV t-shirt, snakeskin wrapped around hat, Little Richard fan
Line-for-line, minute-for-minute, wrestler-turned-actor-turned-governor Jesse Ventura delivers a Hall of Fame sidekick performance.
In his first second on screen, Blain shoves open a chopper door and spits tobacco juice. In his next scene, he tries to convince his teammates to chew tobacco, to indulge in his “real nasty habit,” and spits on Dillon’s boot.
In his third scene, Blain declares, as he uncovers a mini-gun, that “it’s payback time.”
In his fourth scene, he mows down several rebels with said mini-gun.
In his fifth scene, he notes a surviving rebel’s position and, in back-to-back lines, says, “Son of a bitch is dug in like an Alabama tick,” and, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
In Blain’s final scene, his chest explodes from Predator’s laser shot, and his innards just about soak the camera.
Blain delivers a great moment in each of his scenes. He’s as powerful an effective as a young, seemingly invincible Mike Tyson.
If a single work of art could win you a governorship, Blain in Predator is Exhibit A.
NAME: Mac; DISTINCTIVE WEAPON: machine gun; DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: shaves without cream
Mac is the team’s resident hard case. Having some fun is not his style, though he will have some moments before his death.
We first meet Mac as he sits in the back of the chopper shaving, without shaving cream. He doesn’t even need to shave; it looks like he’s doing it to appear tough. Mission accomplished.
Mac dislikes Dillon from the start. When the spook knocks a log down a hill, he’s face-to-face with Mac, who says, “You’re ghosting us, motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the world. You give our position again, I’ll bleed you. Real quiet. Leave you here. Got that?” Later, we think he’s about to stab Dillon in the shoulder, as does Dillon, until we see he’s killed the scorpion crawling on Dillon.
Mac is far from being a heartless killer. Blain’s death hits Mac the hardest. They were friends. He sits over his friend’s body and leaves him his flask. “Goodbye, bro.”
Blain’s death changes Mac. It’s no longer a job, now it’s personal. Mac rigs the tripwires and net that catch Predator for a moment. Turns out no one wants to kill Predator worse than Mac. One night he sits in the forest, looking at the moon, talking to his dead friend Blain. “Same kind of moon,” he says, “same kind of jungle.” About Predator: “I’m going to cut your name into him.”
My favorite Mac moment comes near his end, when he stumbles through the jungle chasing the camouflaged Predator, choking out lines from the Little Richard song that played earlier in the film. “I’m gonna have me some fun,” he wheezes out over and over. “Long tall Sally/she’s built for speed,” he says as he’s stumbling along a hillside. “She got everything that Uncle John needs.”
Mac snaps the handle of his single-blade razor on his face and actually sees the cloaked Predator. His death is merciful. Predator, standing over him like a ghostly demon, zaps his head to pulp.
Predator didn’t drop down from a space taxi ride to have a second banana. This dude is riding solo on the spaceship called Earth, killing its top game: human beings.
No one helps Predator, but someone does undermine Dutch’s team. Dillon is the government official ordering Dutch around.
Dillon is the first major player shown on screen. He sits in a musty (probably) room at a table drinking brown hooch, waiting for his flunkies to arrive.
He and Dutch go back, way back, because who else but a friend would call Dillon, as Dutch does, “You son of a bitch.” When they meet they slap mitts together and immediately have a bicep-off, in which the camera frames both biceps, and the men struggle in an air arm wrestling match that Dutch wins. Dillon always knew when to quit.
Dillon commands the team in the field. He and Dutch lay waste to the rebel compound, running right up the gut, shooting anything that moves.
Once they secure the compound, though, the team comes unglued. Turns out Dillon cooked up a rescue story to get Dutch to agree to infiltrate the rebel base in the jungle of the undisclosed Central American nation.
“You used to be someone I could trust,” Dutch says to Dillon, with a sneer. “What happened to you?” Dillon, his back literally against a wall, says, “I woke up.” Woke up and started pushing pencils.
The rest of the team distrusts Dillon after that. But with Predator swinging around, they have bigger problems than human betrayal. Dillon takes Anna with them and does a terrible job chaperoning her.
Mac doesn’t like Dillon from the start, but Dillon tries to aid Mac in the end. They both die, sure, but they die doing what they loved: trying to kill stuff.
Carl Weathers will live forever in cultural memory for playing Apollo Creed. If not for that, we’d remember him for Dillon. Weathers is a fine actor, exuding toughness and weakness at the same time.
Predator has one of my all-time action scenes. It’s a scene in which only one person dies, and not any bad guys.
Anna, the rescued hostage from the guerrilla camp, tries an escape. Hawkins chases her. He begs her to stay with the group, which knows something is in the forest, hunting them. Then the jungle, it “comes alive” and takes Hawkins. Anna spots the cloaked Predator first. Blood splatters her frightened face.
Poncho follows the blood trail to find the insides of Hawkins, so far as he thinks. Dutch says, “I want Hawkins’s body found.”
Blain’s mini-gun moves into frame like a giant phallus, followed by Blain and his MTV t-shirt. As he and the team search the jungle, the camera pans up up up a tree to find Hawkins hanging upside-down 30 feet off the forest floor.
Dutch spots a python, which seems tame in the forest of Predator. Blain hears something in the undergrowth and gets ready to shoot…a small, Earth-born mammal.
Predator is ready. He fires laser bolts into Blain’s ribcage, which explodes in gore. Mac sees his friend drop and is first to him. He sprays the jungle with his automatic rifle (and hits Predator, though he won’t find out until later). After emptying his clip, Mac lifts Blain’s mini-gun and shoots. The other four men arrive and, asking no questions, shoot everything.
Poncho fires his machine gun and grenade launcher simultaneously. Dutch empties two clips. Every tree in front of them is cut down by the most efficient, if expensive, land clearing team in the Western Hemisphere.
The commandos annihilate the jungle for 44 uninterrupted seconds. If you aren’t watching the movie, turn on a clip of cacophonous gunfire and let it run for 44 seconds. If you’re head doesn’t explode or ears bleed, you might be able to consider the insane ambitiousness of this scene and marvel at its success.
Predator probably exhausted its pyrotechnics budget in the rebel base attack sequence. Many men are on fire in this scene. Some are shot while on fire. The buildings explode as if the stunt people stuffed them with high explosives. The rebel base combusts like the Deepwater Horizon.
Many terrific weapons are used in Predator, but none better than the mini-gun. Normally attached to fighter jets, this mini-gun belongs to Blain. The bullets are so large and fire so quickly that they create smoke to conceal the shooter and the victims.
Once Dutch figures out that Predator uses infrared sight, he has an advantage. The thing stands a few feet from him and targets the only hot thing around, a tiny furry creature. Sparks fly as the creature escapes and Predator hops down the rocks looking for Dutch.
Dutch prepares traps and lo-tech weapons. Spikes are tied to fallen trees. Trip vines are set and disguised. Dutch pulls a tremendous log 20 feet up. Meanwhile, Predator rips Billy’s spine and skull away.
Dutch uses his remaining grenades to make explosive spears. He also bends branches across his back for show, and to make a bow that fires arrows through trees.
Night falls. Predator has a decent skull collection, but he’s missing the more Teutonic of skulls. Dutch rubs mud on himself, which you can see him doing on Friday nights for fun. He lights a torch and screams. Showtime.
Predator uses his laser to heat that double blade of his as Dutch tosses the torch onto a pile of wood. Panting, he takes position in a tree.
Predator’s camouflage works again as he hops through trees toward the bonfire. He creeps up behind Dutch, not seeing him there, his snarling clicks giving him away to Dutch. Dutch, probably scared shitless but not showing it, swings onto another tree. Predator hears it but cannot see.
Dutch readies the bow as Predator walks along a log above the bonfire. The explosive arrow detonates less than one foot in front of Predator, causing the alien to squeal and lose his camouflage. The shoulder-mounted gun slaved to the targeting laser in the mask opens up on Dutch’s tree hideout and many other trees. How you like that, Predator bitch?
Sparks light up the sky, but Dutch holds his tree. Then he falls into the leaves and slinks away, absorbing some damage. Predator tracks plant movement. All seven feet of his frame track Dutch, until Dutch holds the underside of a fallen tree.
Dutch hears the alien stomp away and escapes to his two spears, one explosive and one bladed. He tries the old rock toss distraction trick. Predator goes ahead and gives away his position. Dutch tries another neat trick, rolling into the open and lobbing the explosive spear at Predator, which explodes behind him. Predator bellows a throaty howl.
Now Dutch clutches his knife-edged spear toward his prey. Who’s hunting whom, eh, Predator? The glowing blood is there in small splotches. “Bleed, bastard,” Dutch says.
Dutch follows the blood into a rocky area, his wide white eyes the only parts of him visible. Dutch knows he’s trapped. He hears the blood drip behind him as a Predator leg sets down. Dutch lights a makeshift grenade and throws it behind him. He leaves his spear as he runs away and leaps onto a branch that breaks and sends him into the water that washes away the mud camouflage.
Dutch, out of the water now, thinks he has a moment to regroup. That idea flies away when Predator’s twin blades slash down around his skull. Predator, all seven feet of him, wants to see what Dutch’s got skull-wise. He dislikes. Now angry, Predator wants to finish this the old-fashioned way: mano a mano.
Predator removes his mask and shoulder gun. Dutch says, “You’re one ugly motherfucker.” It’s true. Predator has bad hair and pale skin, but that’s hard to tell for the four overlapping jaw claws covering his sore-colored mouth.
Aesthetic struggles do not affect Predator’s fighting skill. Dutch breaks a branch on his arm, and Predator bitch-slaps Dutch 10 feet backward. He gut punches Dutch and face punches Dutch; blood flies from the last human alive in the jungle.
Dutch escapes long enough to crawl to his booby-trapped hideout near the fire. Predator calmly walks behind, waiting to see what Dutch has planned next. He’s got some tricks up his sleeve, or would if he had sleeves on.
Dutch backs up to a tree, begging Predator to follow him inside. “Come on, do it!” Dutch shouts. “I’m here. Kill me; I’m here!” Predator, blade out, starts in on him until he notices the pointy sticks tied above him. Too clever by half, that Predator.
The alien walks around the trap and underneath the huge log Dutch rigged earlier. Dutch kicks the trigger stick, and the log crashes onto Predator with a thunderous thud.
Dutch can barely see, he’s so tried and injured, but he can hear Predator clicking away. He takes a rock to smash his enemy’s face in, but the alien is spewing neon blood now. “What the hell are you?” Dutch asks. Predator parrots back the question.
Dutch tosses away the rock for some reason. Big mistake, because Predator opens his wrist computer and triggers a countdown sequence. Not wanting to stick around to find out what happens when its timer expires, and having a chopper to get to, Dutch sprints away. A huge, huge explosion, complete with mushroom cloud, turns an acre to ash.
As the chopper to be got to lands, Dutch waits for it in a nuclear hellscape, his hands resting on his hips. In the chopper, Dutch sits back, ash covered, looking like he needs a cigar. It’s a far cry from the Dutch that got off a chopper at the start.
Predator is a bold film, so bold, that a character actually tells jokes. Think about it. When have you ever heard a movie character tell jokes?
Hawkins, he of the large glasses, tries to make his stoic friend Billy laugh. He starts in the chopper on the way to the mission: “Hey Billy. Billy! The other day, I went up to my girlfriend, I said, ‘Y’know I’d like a little pussy.’ She said, ‘Me too, mine’s as big as a house!'” Billy’s not having that joke. He stares at Hawkins as if he were a bug in need of squashing. Hawkins tries to dig out of the hole. “See, she, she wanted a little one ’cause hers was…big as a house.” Silence.
Hawkins tries again, after the rebel base raid. “Billy. Billy! The other day, I was going down on my girlfriend, I said to her, ‘Jeez you got a big pussy. Jeez you got a big pussy.’ She said, ‘Why did you say that twice?’ I said, ‘I didn’t.'” Billy turns away, and bellows a huge laugh that Predator adopts for himself to use later.
Great jokes, those two. But they pale, pale so palingly, compared to Blain. Blain is a rapid-fire comedy machine. Nearly every single one of his lines is quotable, but it’s his introductory line that bears a breakdown.
On the chopper sending the men to the mission, Blain holds open a bag of chewing tobacco. Yes, that’s very gross, but it was the ’80s. Still, no one wants the stuff. Blain, disgusted, says, “You’re all a bunch of slack-jawed f*****s around here.” He smiles. “This stuff will make you a goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”
I admit that I have always found this dialogue funny. The word “f****t” is defamatory, certainly in the 1980s. Blain knows the word is shocking and offensive, and that’s why he uses it; it’s germane to his character. He slurs the other commandos for refusing to chew tobacco with him. Watching the movie today, Blain’s first sentence shocks in the “I can’t believe he said that” manner. His second line is hilarious.
Right after that offensive slur, Blain claims that he is a sexual beast for chewing tobacco. And not just any beast. He could have chosen “lion,” “tiger,” “grizzly,” “elephant,” or some other large creature. Instead he selected the largest land predator in Earth’s history to represent his level of sexual prowess.
Blain does not live life by half measures. For his offensive, bombastic word choice and nasty, addictive habit, for making statements as funny as they are offensive, Blain elevates his character to sidekick icon status.
The jungle. Not Upton Sinclair’s but the actual jungle. It’s a nasty place in Predator. As Blain says, it “makes Cambodia look like Kansas.” This bush is thick stuff.
The filmmakers chose an interesting location for their movie. Filming in dense jungle must have been hell. In one scene, the camera follows a tree from the ground to three stories up, where a body hangs. Where did they find room for a crane there?
The rebel base is straightforward. It’s a large compound carved from the jungle. Near ponds and with rock outcroppings, what was a base 30 years ago could today be a resort.
I’m more impressed with the jungly parts of the jungle. A common trope in Predator is the fallen tree. Billy dies on one, Dutch hides under one, and another crushes Predator. If you walk in a forest you see fallen trees littering the ground (unless the beaver population is robust), but it seems convenient to have so many for use in Predator.
The geography of a rainforest can leave outsiders confused. Dutch and his team don’t seem that way. They have a map and know where the border is, their extraction point. They could wander through the bush for days and go in circles for all we, the viewers, know.
Filmmakers helpfully stage the climactic battle near a large water feature. Dutch slides down a hill and into a river, then over a waterfall. Spending that afternoon preparing, he sets his traps near the river. That way we have some sense of where Dutch and Predator are, and how near they are to Dutch’s final trap. Dutch swings through trees and falls into a side stream, but he never strays far from the traps.
A revolution’s brewing in Central America. Which country? None is given. Are the rebels the good guys or the bad guys? Never said. The only reason we can guess the country to be in the western hemisphere is its rainforest biosphere, the Spanish heard in the compound, and the nearness of the compound to the border.
Predator is completely disinterested in international politics, and mostly so with interpersonal politics. The Dutch-Dillon feud is short-lived, because Predator starts killing the commandos shortly after they annihilate the guerrillas.
The film has more to say about hunting. Predator is perhaps cinema’s first creature smarter and more well equipped than humans and eager to hunt them for fun. The movie knocks us down a peg or two in the universal evolutionary pool.
Cast diversity is a sore point amongst many critics, but it’s hard to scold the makers of Predator. Dutch’s team was one of Real American Heroes. I feels sorry for Elpidia Carrillo, who played Anna, for appearing in this movie full of macho guys doing macho things. Making Predator sounds like the ultimate guy’s adult summer camp, and to be one of the few women there must have been a drag at times.
Blain’s use of a homosexual slur is bad. It doesn’t play well a generation after its use. At the time, the culture at large hardly had trouble with the word, but Predator deserves scorn for its use today.
- I’ve said it all.
Summary (57/68): 84%
A bonafide, stonecold, unassailable lock for the Action Film Hall of Fame (should such a thing exist, and it should), Predator ticks all the marks of action cinema. One of the most testosterone-packed films ever made, Predator featured two governors who won states as diverse as Minnesota and California. That fact alone astounds.