Pulpy entertainment is at the heart of The Predator, a wild late summer treat whose makers are well aware of the genre confines in which the movie exists and celebrate them whenever possible.
Iron Man 3 to one side, such ends are to be expected from director/co-writer Shane Black (The Nice Guys), who returns to his ‘80s roots — the guy had a supporting part in the Schwarzenegger series originator — with smart, irreverent filmmaking that’s equal parts comedy and bloody sci-fi action/adventure.
In classic throwback fashion, the film finds military sniper Quinn (Boyd Holbrook, Logan) teaming with a charming rag-tag group of purportedly mentally ill ex-soldiers — played by the likes of Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane — and theoretical alien expert Casey (Olivia Munn, providing unintentional comedy with her choppy running motion) after witnessing an alien landing and surviving a battle with the titular visitor.
Complicating matters is the accidental involvement of Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay, Room) via a few pieces of E.T. tech and attempts by shadowy government agent Traeger (Sterling K. Brown, Black Panther) to collect all interesting samples — humans included — for himself, regardless of the collateral damage.
With aid from the film’s textbook “keep the heroes alive until the end” style, the seemingly all-powerful dreadlocked creature deals minor characters quick, often violent deaths yet is mysteriously content with merely slapping around the more prominently billed actors.
When major players eventually bow out, they do so in ways true to their personal histories, which have been built up through amusing exchanges and a few fun references to the original film that make their demises more meaningful than the average action flick death.
Plus, there are comic-relief blind alien dogs — because why not? It’s a Predator movie, not Lawrence of Arabia.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)