The Predator has become one of the most legendary movie aliens in cinema history. The original movie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, revolved around a group of American commandos being hunted in the jungle of a South American country. In this sequel, simply titled Predator 2, the action has been moved to the urban jungle of Los Angeles and instead of a group of commandos, the alien is after two rival drug gangs and LAPD lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover).
Predator 2 is very much a comic book movie. The entire script and characters seem to have been taken from a comic book. It’s set in the near future of 1997 (this movie was released in 1990) and the only progress made in these 7 years were apparently the way guns looked. Because the alien has been revealed in the previous movie, Predator 2 skips the suspenseful build-up and drops us straight into the action.
Predator 2 does as much right as it does wrong. On the one hand the movie develops the character of the hunter further without overexposing him. He is by far the most intriguing character of the movie, something which is normal for anti-heroes like himself. The rest of the cast consists of flat 1-dimensional characters: Harrigan is your typical cop who has a problem with his superiors. His crew consists of an ethnic reflection of LA: One black man, two Latinos of which one is a woman and a white dude played by Bill Paxton doing his usual Bill Paxton: being loud, annoying and somehow still watchable. He even has a catch phrase he uses whenever he is given a task: “<insert assigned task> is my middle specialty”. Like I said, this is a comic book movie.
I’ve always admired Predator 2 for the fact that it doesn’t simply rehash the first movie. The change of location and entire cast really makes the movie feel fresh. Predator 2 is one of those rare sequels that knows how to change enough so you don’t have the idea you’re watching he same thing twice, yet remains faithful enough to its source material.
Predator 2 feels much like a slasher movie with all the P.O.V.-shots and the hunter taking his some of his opponents one at a time. This is very reminiscent of the first movie in which the commandos where taken down one by one. The movie becomes truly interesting when Harrigan discovers that some sort of government agency led by Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) has been able to track the hunter to a slaughterhouse where they will try to trap him. It’s at this point the events in the previous movie are mentioned creating a link between the two and setting up a lengthy one-on-one battle between Harrigan and the hunter. Because Harrigan isn’t the superhuman Arnold Schwarzenegger is, the odds are in favor of the hunter. What follows is a great game of cat and mouse which even includes some extra-terrestrial self-surgery in the bathroom of an elderly couple.
Director Stephen Hopkins takes a more comical approach to the material that John McTiernan did in the original. There were one-liners but they were only featured in the first part of the movie when they were trying to pretend to be just another 80s action movie. In Predator 2 there are plenty of scenes which end up going for a punchline, most notably during a subway scene in which every passenger appears to be carrying a gun. Not everything works because Hopkins doesn’t know how to balance comedy and horror in a movie as he previously demonstrated in the mediocre “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child“.
Aside from the hunter, all of the other villains are bland. Even King Willy, the drug kingpin mentioned a couple of times before showing up in just one scene, is hardly memorable. They use his Jamaican background to give him voodoo powers and apparently seems to be aware of the creature doing the killing while everybody else is still wildly looking for answers to what’s going on. Together with Marked for Death this marks the second time that Jamaicans were portrayed as violent gang members which perform voodoo rituals in a studio movie in 1990. I guess that was a thing back then.
Predator 2 is an entertaining B-grade sequel to a big budget movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it has this feeling it was made to go straight to video. The first movie has names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and John McTiernan attached to it. Predator 2 has the B-movie hall of fame appearing: Danny Glover, Bill Paxton, Gary Busey and Robert Davi just to name a few. It doesn’t matter, the true star here is the hunter.