Lay off 'Predator 2'!

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With every critic in town (including our own Nigel Floyd) lining up to claim that new sci-fi sequel ‘Predators’ is the first true successor to Big Arnie’s 1987 alien-ass-kicking classic, it seemed an appropriate time to mount a spirited defence of what remains one of the most inventive and underrated of all action movies: 'Predator 2'

Long disregarded as a pale shadow of its predecessor, 'Predator 2' is unfairly lumped in with feeble cash-cows like ‘Alien vs Predator’, when in fact it’s a smart, well written, superbly paced example of the Hollywood action blockbuster at its early ’90s peak. Here are five reasons why ‘Predator 2’ is not just the equal, but actually superior to the original.

1. It’s got Danny Glover in it

Sure, we all love Arnie but, with his bulging biceps and brick-wall mentality, he’s not the kind of screen icon your ordinary filmgoer can really relate to. Danny Glover, on the other hand, is the common man personified: irritable, durable and beset by myriad woes. In an obvious nod to the recent success of ‘Lethal Weapon’, Glover is once again cast as a police lieutenant fighting a bloody battle with drug runners on the streets of LA. The twist is that now it’s 1997 (the future!), the drug lords are out of control and the streets of South Central have basically become one giant war zone. Plus there’s a heat wave on. And then this bloody alien shows up…

2. The rest of the cast are great, too

The original movie backed up its star with overgrown freaks like Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura. But ‘Predator 2’ is more interested in character than how much a guy can bench, so here the muscles are replaced with mouths: Bill Paxton essays one of his most memorable roles as brash country cop Jerry ‘The Lone Ranger’ Lambert, Maria Conchita Alonso is perfect no-bullshit action-heroine fodder as Glover’s partner Cantrell and Gary Busey performs his usual eye-rolling, wisecracking schtick to perfection as shady Special Agent Keyes, a role originally intended for Arnie’s big comeback. Our gain.

3. It's got great action sequences

The original ‘Predator’ consists of Arnie and the Ugly Fella shooting at each other in various jungle locations, but director Stephen Hopkins constructed three unique and memorable set pieces for the sequel. The first takes place on the streets, as Glover comes under heavy explosive fire from the gangs, and the Predator makes his first appearance. The second finds Paxton and Alonso confronting a gang of punk thugs – and one pissed-off alien creature – on the subway, in showers of sparks and flickering neon light, while the third is a clever riff on the ‘Alien’ idea of tracking heat sensors, as a band of US Army types confront the monster in a cold-storage warehouse.

4. It can’t figure out what kind of movie it is

The original was essentially an action spectacular with a spot of blood and a touch of sci-fi. ‘Predator 2’ is all over the place: is it a police procedural, a ‘Robocop’ style future satire, a science fiction thriller, a gangland drama, a black comedy, a monster movie? The answer is all of the above, plus everything the original was, leading to a fantastically unsettling sense of unpredictability, as a series of radical tonal shifts take the move from all-out action to gut-churning suspense in a heartbeat. Some called it uneven (Roger Ebert likened the movie to an ‘angry and ugly’ dream). I call it interesting.

5. It’s just more fun

To be fair, the original movie had Bill Duke and that safety razor, so there was a fair amount to live up to. But ‘Predator 2’ just has a looser, shaggier feel to it: Paxton mouths off like a trooper, Glover has a great running feud with right-wing reporter Morton Downey Jr, and even the Predator gets to crack wise, sort of, when he comes up against a chubby kid with a water pistol. All this, plus some amusingly stereotypical doped-out Jamaican Yardies and that much-noted sight gag in the final scene, where Harrigan stumbles across an alien head inside the Predator’s ship.

Author: Tom Huddleston


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