Predator (1987) Directed by John McTiernan. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves and Shane Black.
‘The hunter becoming the hunted’ is a concept that immediately tweaks my interest. Add a science-fiction slant to it and I’m there, front and centre. John McTiernan’s violent popcorn movie is everything you might hope. Released a year after James Cameron’s Aliens, it continues the trend of military might vs an extraterrestrial foe. Led by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch), a covert team of wisecracking mercenaries are sent on a mission, deep in the Central American jungle. Little do they know, something else is lurking in the undergrowth.
For the first 20-odd minutes, Predator plays like any other 1980’s action vehicle. It’s all helicopters, muscles and macho bullshit. It’s just like Rambo: First Blood Part II, only with the charisma of a cigar-chewing Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers – an early test of strength between the pair establishes who’s the daddy. The hangover from Vietnam lurks in the background as the men fly out to the jungle to face more than they bargained for.
Outside of The Terminator series, this is perhaps the signature Schwarzenegger piece. It is the role which features some of his most famous lines “if it bleeds we can kill it…”…“get to da choppa! “. It is also the role that he most effectively inhabits with the dual force of his physicality and larger than life charms. He casually quips like Bond, but you better believe he can hit harder than George Foreman.
As a movie set the jungle of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico makes for a stunningly cinematic backdrop for the action to take place against. It also provides the perfect playground for the alien to stalk and test its prey as it watches Arnie’s team of commando’s from the treetops – we’re even treated to Predator-cam, which is effective in contributing to the sense of an other-worldy threat.
As characters are brutally picked-off, there is a predictable sense that it’s all heading for some kind of epic showdown, yet given the various elements, it doesn’t detract from the growing suspense. Pitting a hulking Schwarzenegger against a formidable 8-foot alien foe makes for some great thrills, and while Predator isn’t going to bother Alien in the all-time classic stakes, it’s still a superior sci-fi actioner, with a solid premise and endlessly quotable dialogue.