Predator (1987)
By: Mr Intolerance on December 18, 2010  | 
DVD
20th Century Fox | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1(16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 107 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, RG Armstrong, Kevin Peter Hall
Screenplay: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Country: USA
External Links
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I first saw Predator at the movies when it came out in '87 on my fifteenth birthday, and I think it's testimony to this film that I can still remember that. No, it's not great art, but what it is, is a slice of 80s action/horror/sci-fi goodness. Relentlessly paced and full of enough action and violence and tough guy machismo to fill ten movies, once seen, Predator is one movie that won't be forgotten.

Arnie plays Major "Dutch" Schaeffer, recruited by the CIA, along with his squad of bad-ass soldiers, to rescue hostages held in an unspecified Central American country. Well, that's what they're told, anyway. Turns out the truth is a little more complex, and CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers) seems to think that Dutch and his boys don't need to be burdened with the real facts.

It becomes rapidly apparent that something pretty fucked up is happening – finding a bunch of skinned corpses of people you know would generally make you reconsider your aims and objectives. I'm rather attached to my hide and don't particularly like the thought of it being violently removed, particularly not if I'm still alive while it's happening, as is hinted at here. Dutch's men think the same way, being sensible fellas, and they also realise that this probably wasn't the work of any backwoods political malcontents. That said, they certainly aren't backwards in coming forwards when it comes to handing out an arse-kicking, which is what the guerrillas get, and in no uncertain terms. Time for a fire-fight! And of course, it wouldn't be an Arnie film if he didn't get a few wise-ass one-liners when making people dead. Oh, the hilarity…

Once the violence is over, Dutch works out pretty quickly that he and his team have been used by Dillon to achieve a completely different set of goals, and that in true black ops style, they're seen as expendable. Because of the "hot" nature of their current situation, the boys, now with a prisoner, Anna, in tow, can't be air-lifted out, and so must proceed to the border on foot before they can be rescued. And then we get the first real appearance of the Predator, an alien big game hunter, essentially, who only hunts the biggest, baddest and most dangerous game around – in this case, Dutch and his team.

This is where the film really takes off, and where the tension really starts to mount. It's pretty simple plot-wise, and very well-handled; just like in other top-notch survival horror films like Alien or Carpenter's The Thing, the good guys start getting taken down one by one by an unknown, merciless assailant. I also noticed that once the threat of the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall, under some pretty impressive Stan Winston make-up) becomes real, the cheese-factor of this film lessens significantly. All the hyperbolic tough guy excesses of the opening act of the film disappear, and we're faced with a taut, tense film that keeps you (excuse the cliché) on the edge of your seat.

Anna tells Dutch and the boys about a myth her people have about "the demon who makes trophies of men", a killer who only strikes when it's hot, which is certainly the case here. It also makes sense for the sequel set in heatwave-stricken Los Angeles; the Predators are drawn to heat and violence for their sport, and like all good big game hunters, they abide by certain rules: they don't kill the defenceless, pregnant or ill, thus maximising the locale's effectiveness for providing healthy game.

Dutch and the gang try setting a trap for the Predator, but you'd think old mate is a bit too experienced a hunter to fall prey for that, although he is rather keen to expand his trophy cabinet. Some people will do foolish things, after all, when wanting a bit of memorabilia – the Predator is no exception. Think about the times you've spent stupid amounts of cash on the internet collecting shit you don't actually don't need; this is merely a more homicidal version of eBay sniping. And a much more exciting one, given we don't have to empathise with Buyer's Gloom.

When we get to the climactic duel, mano a Predatoro, we get the novel spectacle of seeing a person who can make the Governator look small, 7 foot 2 inch Kevin Peter Hall, who plays the Predator, is a pretty big dude (if you want to see the man behind the mask, keep watching the film right to the end for a cameo in an obviously different role).

So then, whaddya get? An insanely entertaining fillum with Arnie almost at his best (I still think Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator are superior films), but this is pretty fuckin' good fare, nonetheless. Action a-plenty, with fire-fights and good wholesome violence for all, Predator is a tough act to follow. 23 years after I first saw it and I'm still bloody loving it – there's nothing like the test of time to validate a movie's appeal.
Video
Presented in its original aspect 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and anamorphically enhanced, Predator is lookin' good, but it could look better. There's a rich colour palette on offer, and pretty strong blacks but the source material would've benefited from a little cleaning as fine grain is noticeable throughout most of the movie.
Audio
With Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio options it's an action sound-fest! Bullets and explosions and macho tough guy bullshit, all sounding totally suh-weet, although there a few moments where the sound quality differs oddly; maybe the guy at the ADR machine was on a coffee break. Hope my neighbours enjoyed it being played at high volume, 'cos I certainly did. Alan Silvestri's score is pretty fuckin' good, too – props where they're due.
Extra Features
Given that this version bills itself as a definitive edition, it really does live up to the title. On the first disc you get: an informative commentary with director John McTiernan (which has subtitles from the film so that you miss none of the tough-guy back-and-forth), a text commentary (this is quite rich, with subtitle interviews with sound editors, the second unit director, the casting director, the special effects director, the editors, the visual effects director, the cinematographer, and the screenwriters) and the CD-ROM material is a link for PC-users (with Windows 98 or higher) to view Aliens Versus Predator 2. As a Mac user, I'm kind of glad that's not really open to me.

On disc two, the goods are delivered with a "making of" featurette, "If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It" (this is worth your attention – McTiernan stated that he wanted to make a "popcorn film" – mission accomplished! And the amount of working out the guys did – and that they talk about just adds to the machismo – fucking hilarious), it interviews a bunch of cast and crew, and does so well. One of the better docos I've seen about a film lately. Then there's another featurette called "Inside The Predator" (beginning with reflections on the second unit filming – the most awesome action scene of the film, the assault on the Contras' hideout – and then comprehensively dealing with every aspect of the production of the film – Arnie apparently got Carl Weathers hooked on cigars, factoid-fans – this is a really comprehensive featurettte, let me tell you), Then there are some pre-production shots of the Predator in the jungle, before the special effects had taken hold, as well as some pre-camouflage tests (some of which is done without audio). There are also a range of deleted scenes and outtakes (which feature much lesser quality picture presentation. And then there are the Predator Profiles (which for some reason, I couldn't access), and a photo gallery from the film.

A definitive release indeed.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you can't watch this and be entertained, there is something wrong with you. Seriously, you need to seek out professional help, and soon. Predator is the most flavoursome cheese available. It might still be inferior to its sequel (in my opinion, at least), but it is definitely far superior to a lot of the 80s US big-budget action films out there that tried, and failed, to top it. Get the beers in, get your mates around and have a blast. This is an action-film fan's wet-dream.

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