Predator 2 (1990)
By: Mr Intolerance on December 20, 2010  | 
20th Century Fox | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 103 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi
Screenplay: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Country: USA
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"There's no stopping what can't be stopped, no killing what can't be killed."

Set ten years after the infinitely cheesier, yet inferior Predator (and props to the team who proved a sequel could top the film that spawned it), Predator 2 is one smokin' shoot 'em up. It's a gleeful romp through splatter, monster effects and tough guy dialogue. Even without the presence of the Governator, this film holds its own and shows its audience how an action/survival-horror film should look. For a comparison between Predator and Predator 2, think the 60s Batman and then the Burton remakes respectively; the tone changes that much, despite both being highly entertaining films.

The LAPD are under siege from Columbian and Jamaican drug cartels. At the beginning of the film it's the Columbians causing the carnage, and what a lively fire-fight it is. But lurking in the background is our old mate the Predator (one undeniably bad-ass reptilian-humanoid alien dude). This off-world tribal big-game hunter is always happiest where the lead is flying the thickest and decides to turn up to even out the score, being that the good-guys are so hopelessly outgunned. He's not doing this for any beneficent reasons, oh no – he just wants more trophies, preferably from the biggest, baddest, most dangerous game he can find.

"Want some candy?"

Instead of the literal jungle of the first film, the Predator has come to hunt in the urban jungle of heat-wave-stricken Los Angeles, however, he's also being hunted by Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) – a role adapted from Schwarzenegger's Dutch Schaeffer from the original (after Arnie bailed out for Terminator 2, apparently, not keen on the Predator in a non-jungle environment, despite having spent a freezing three weeks in mud on the original shoot, and having lost over 20lb). After the initial fire-fight the LAPD contravene orders and storm the stronghold of the drug-lords, only to find a slaughterhouse of dead Columbians. Who killed them? Buggered if they know, but Keyes and his boys are on the scene to try and locate the culprit.

This isn't good enough for acrophobic cop Lt Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover), who wants to know what the hell's going on, and why the Feds are on his turf. Cue the old bumping heads scenario between the cops and the FBI. To add to Mike's problems, he's just been saddled with a real cowboy on his team of Danny (Blades) and Leona (Alonso), in the shape of Jerry "The Lone Ranger" Lambert (Paxton), who has a bit of a reputation for getting his partners killed. That's a pretty neat collection of 80s action stars right there, can I tell you - Gary (Point Break) Busey, Maria (The Running Man) Conchita Alonso, Bill (Aliens, Near Dark) Paxton, and of course Danny (Lethal Weapon) Glover - while it maybe doesn't boast the over-the-top likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, it's a pretty fucking strong cast by anyone's standards, and they do a very solid job, let me tell you, Glover in particular is in fine form, here for once not relegated to the side-kick position, and showing why he shouldn't simply be seen in Mel Gibson's shadow.

More gangsters are being killed off in increasingly grisly, not to mention particularly hands-on, ways, and Harrigan is still trying to find out why and by whom, not being helped by Keyes and his merry men, whose agenda clearly isn't anything to do with their DEA cover story. And when Harrigan's investigation into the drug war goes further, and things start getting a bit hairy for his crew, Harrigan takes matters into his own hands, in true rogue cop style – and the violence escalates wildly. It's a good thing.

One idea that's developed quite well in this film is the almost Paul Verhoeven-like use of the media (in this case represented by real-life schlock-jock Morton Downey Junior as Tony Pope, reporter for extreme TV news show "Hard Core") as a kind of Greek chorus, mirroring the views of the more conservative, reactionary aspects of contemporary society (think Starship Troopers, or RoboCop) – and, by extension, our own. It's not a particularly subtle thing, as you will see (well, look at the reporter's surname, for one), but certainly makes the point. Isn't it funny how we are so often positioned to see our print and electronic media in a negative light, and yet, we always go back to them for information, no matter how often they violate our trust. Just a thought.

"The lions, the tigers, the bears…oh my!"

The Predator only kills combatant enemies, and, like any good big-game hunter, shies away from the sick, young or pregnant, only fighting those who can adequately defend themselves, and not being a threat to re-populating the species, so as to ensure years of good hunting of the same critter. Mind you, being over a foot taller than the average male, about 100lbs heavier and ruthlessly homicidal, he's still at somewhat of an advantage. Throw in the fact that he's also invisible, for want of a better term, and can see in a range of spectrums – not to mention having a pain threshold far in excess of the average human, agility to make a gazelle look like a hippo, an extremely tough hide and weapons technology to make our very best look like a bit of rock and a pointy stick, and you might think he's got a bit of an unfair advantage, to say the least.

"It's alright, I'm a cop!" "I don't think he gives a shit!"

Still, Harrigan and Keyes are up for the challenge, in their own different ways. Harrigan tries to enlist the aid of Jamaican drug lord King Willy, to no avail, bar some metaphysical twaddle which sounds cool only out of context. Keyes invests his trust in science. Neither has much luck until Harrigan (excuse the cliché) turns the hunter into the hunted, using the means of the hunt itself. And the climactic chase scene is worth the price of admission alone.

"You cannot see the eyes of the demon…until him come calling. This is dread man…real dread."

The Predator in this film is nowhere near as B-grade comic book as the first film's. I'm not having a go (one of my fondest memories is of seeing the original Predator at the movies on my 15th birthday on its initial release), this one just seems to be more of a threat, possibly due to its urban setting – its kills seem so much more visceral and real. And with it triumphing so often against such a massive array of firepower (even though no-one's got a chain-gun in this film unlike the first one, there's a LOT of lead flying about), the effect is not unlike comparing the first Alien film against its equally gun-happy sequel.

I've never understood why this film lives so very firmly in the shadow of its predecessor. As good as that film is (and if you read my review of it, you'll see that I like it very much indeed), to me Predator 2 wins on every level - great script, darker tone, amazing special effects (and those in the first film were nothing to sneeze at), excellent cast, a fine balance achieved between the comic-book and the serious to make it that little bit more credible, and the main strength to me - having a hero who isn't built like a condom full of walnuts, and who is quite believably flawed. It almost seems to me as if the studio lost confidence in the film and tried to bury it after the Governator pulled out, which to me is a terrible shame. But then again, the fact that it seems like a B-film is probably what draws me closer to it than its older brother.

Predator 2 develops the nature of the Predator creature in all kinds of interesting ways (rites of passage, code of honour) which could have been further developed in future sequels if the Alien Versus Predator franchise (which worked so much better in a comic-book form) hadn't killed the whole thing stone dead amongst serious genre fans (and let's face it - the primary target audience for this film is not where the studios are pitching, it's guys my age who saw the original films in a cinema on the original release, as I did for both Predator and Predator 2). A history or maybe mythology for the race was being slowly developed, but, well, look where that led us - Antarctic death-trap fortresses and the like, developed by a five year old after being half-inched from the icy halls of Lovecraft's Old Ones in At The Mountains Of Madness. I guess the unfortunate and untimely death of Kevin (Without Warning) Peter Hall, the 7 foot 2 actor who played the monster in the first two films, didn't help either. I don't mean that as a disrespectful throw-away line, either - think about it: not just anyone can wear that suit and make it work; a tall, agile and extremely fit person was needed to present the Predator as figure of menace. People fitting that description who can physically act, conveying character effectively (and that's the key word) through motion alone are few and far between. I just can't help thinking where this series might have gone. A franchise opportunity for good gone wasted, flushed down the PG-13 toilet, although recent release Predators was a welcome return to form - of sorts.
The picture is crystal, if at times a little dark. Oh, and there's one bit towards the end where the special effects don't quite cut it (you know the bit I'm talking about), but that's a problem with the original print. Until I see this re-mastered on Hi-Def, I can't imagine it looking better. I would have liked it in 2.35:1 (if it exists in that aspect ratio, which it doesn't), but that's just nit-picking.
Explosions and gunfire never sounded so good. Again, an excellent audio transfer. And the tribal-esque parts of the soundtrack enhance the scenes they back, reinforcing the tribal-esque nature of the bad guy. The non-tribal score (as in the chase scene) sounds oddly dated and clunky.
Extra Features
All sorts. There's a director commentary by Stephen Hopkins (who doesn't seem to have gone on to a lot of much quality, oddly enough given this effort, and who came from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5), and a second commentary track with the writers, Jim and John Thomas. There's an extended "Making Of" featurette, "The Hunters and the Hunted" (including some interview footage with the only recently dearly departed, the late, great Stan Winston, RIP) which is worth the time for the fans, as well as some special effects breakdowns narrated by the visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek – tends to spoil the magic for those of us not in the special effects biz. There's also an analysis of the Predator's weaponry for the uber-nerds amongst us (that'd comprise of the Gauntlet Knives, the Self Destruct, the Plasma Cannon, the Net Launcher, the Smart Weapon and the Telescoping Spear – don't you wish you had my rich and full life?), a stills gallery and a couple of extended scenes of the "Hard Core" faux news program (these add a bit of flavour, but you can see why they were trimmed). Oh, you want more? Well, there's also a bunch of promotional material from 1990 ("The Predator Goes to Town" and "The International 'Making of' Featurette"), and the "Creating the Ultimate Hunter" featurette. Exhaustive? I thought so.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A much more brutal, bloody, profane and nasty film than its predecessor, Predator 2 takes no prisoners. This is that clichéd roller-coaster ride so many films tout themselves as being. Non-stop action? You'd better believe it. Intelligent plot? Surprisingly, yes. Great performances from a cast used to high-octane action? Yup. This is a film that delivers on all levels. Go and buy the fucker now.

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