FlixChatter Review: THE PREDATOR (2018)

John McTiernan’s Predator came out 31 years ago, it spawned 2 sequels and 2 spinoffs. The original film felt fresh when it’s released back in the late 80s and I think it’s one of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films. The two sequels weren’t as good, both has its moments but quite forgettable to me. The spinoffs Alien vs. Predator were just awful. Yet somehow the studio folks at Fox never gave up the idea that it can turn into some profitable franchise for them. So, when Shane Black’s career got a new life after the success of Iron Man 3, he was offered a chance to write and direct a new solo Predator film.

While on a mission somewhere in in the jungle of Mexico, army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) has an encounter with the Predator when its ship crash landed near his vicinity. McKenna decided to take a closer look at the alien spaceship but quickly realized he’s in danger when the occupant turns out to be hostile and killed all of his sniper teammates. But before he escaped, he’s able to grab some of the Predator’s equipment and sent them back to his house. After he escaped, McKenna was taken into questioning by a secret government agency lead by Traeder (Sterling K. Brown). Knowing he’s in danger with his own government, McKenna decided to keep his mouth shut and said he doesn’t know anything about what he saw but Traeder didn’t believe him and put him on a bus to take him to a more secure location for more questioning. While on the bus, McKenna got to know some weird characters ex-military men prisoners. Back at his home, the Predator’s items ended up at the hands of this autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who studies them intently and accidentally sending a signal to another Predator who comes to earth for blood.

Traeder’s team was able to capture the predator and decided to call up a scientist named Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help with figuring out why the alien is back on earth. Of course, things didn’t turn out well and the Predator was able to free himself and killed a lot of people. It’s now up to Mckenna and his team of ex-military misfits to stop not one but two Predators from destroying the world.

Co-written by Black and his best bud Fred Dekker, the story is kind of mess. There’s no real focus on the plot, there are plenty of ideas being thrown around but Black and Dekker are only interested in delivering funny dialogs and on-screen violence. Also, by giving us more information about the Predator’s intention, it just took out the mysteries surrounding these creatures and made them less scary. To me, what worked in the first film was the lack of information about the Predator, it’s here to hunt people for sports and it kills for fun; that to me made the first film kind of scary.

Speaking of violence, Black intended to make this film as hard R rated as he could, so if you have weak stomach, you might not like the over the top violence being shown on screen. The most disappointing thing to me about this film was the lack of any signature action scenes. Sure, there are plenty of action in the film but most of them were badly-shot or ended way too quickly. Black is known for writing some of the best action films ever made, but as a director, he just doesn’t know how to execute his written words for the screen.

Performance wise, I think the supporting cast were pretty good. But I was never a fan of Holbrook and he’s not a strong leading man material. He’s the kind of actor who tends overacts and I never believe the character he’s portraying. Sterling K. Brown seemed to have a lot of fun, his character is combination of Carl Weather’s character from the first film and Gary Busey’s from the second. He overacts in a lot of his scenes, but I didn’t mind it too much. Just like other Predator films, Munn’s the only female character in the story and I thought she carried herself pretty well. I’m just glad they didn’t make her into another damsel-in-distress type.

I think this is a film that could’ve been a lot better with fresh eyes, but with Black having full control, he really wants to take the audience back into the old style of action films from bygone years. I personally don’t mind that at all if it’s well made but this latest sequel was just too messy and didn’t have a real focus. While I enjoyed some parts of it, I kind of wish they got a new crew to work on this one.

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So have you seen The Predator? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Run All Night (2015)

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Liam Neeson has struck gold with TAKEN and he’s been doing the same kind of movie since. It could be that he’s now being typecast or that he prefers the big paychecks; I’m thinking it’s a little bit of both. Whatever the case, he’s great as the action hero who can take down countless baddies and he would’ve been perfect as Jack Reacher. For many action stars in Hollywood, we kind of have to suspense of belief that they can beat down a bunch of bad guys, I don’t see Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or Matt Damon take down anyone in real life. But Neeson I can believe he can kick ass on the big screen and in real life.

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The film opens with a wounded Jimmy Conlon (Neeson), he’s been shot and then the film flashes back 16 hours earlier. Conlon is now at some bar in NYC and asking the bar owner Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) for a loan. Danny is the son of a powerful Irish mobster Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). We later learned that Conlon and Maguire are childhood friends and that Conlon is his hit man. Conlon also has a son named Mike (Joel Kinnaman) who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his involvement with the mob. Mike is a limo driver and on this night happens to be driving Danny’s drug dealing partners; he drops them off at Danny’s condo and waited outside. Danny owes his partners a lot of money and since he can’t pay them back, he decided to kill them. Mike witnessed the carnage and barely escaped when Danny went after him. If you’ve seen the trailer then you pretty much know the basic story set up, Jimmy came to his son rescue and killed Danny. This of course pissed of his old friend Shawn so he sends out his henchmen, including dirty cops, to take out Jimmy and his son. True to the title, both of them ran all night.

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Unlike his role as Bryan Mills in Taken, Neeson is more of a loser in this film. But he’s still kick a lot of butts and shoots tons of people. Basically he’s a poor man’s version of Bryan Mills. Harris took his role a bit too seriously but he’s effective as the villain. I’m still not sure I like Joel Kinnaman, he’s okay in last year’s Robocop remake and he’s okay here as the sidekick. There aren’t any other memorably performances in the film, although rapper Common showing up as the main antagonist was kind of weird and interesting. Also, there’s a nice cameo from a veteran actor whom I haven’t seen on the big screen for a long time, so keep an eye out for him.

The script by Brad Ingelby is pretty generic, there’s nothing that we haven’t seen in this kind of film before. In fact I think he must’ve watched some early 90s crime thrillers before he wrote this script, the film reminded me of State of Grace, Out for Justice and Heat. There’s even a scene where the two veteran actors Neeson and Harris facing one another in a restaurant just like the scene from Heat with De Niro and Pacino. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Neeson previously in Unknown and Non-Stop) did a good job of keeping the action moving fast and never lingered on useless scenes. He used some interesting transitions between each scenes, not sure if I’m a fan of the technique but it’s definitely interesting. He didn’t really include any over-the-top action sequences, but I did enjoy an action sequence set in the housing project. He also shot the movie on film, a rarity these days and I think it looks great.

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This isn’t a film that’s going to win any awards and don’t expect any originality. If you like seeing Liam Neeson kicking ass then you’ll enjoy this one. It reminded me of the 90s action thrillers and most importantly, I was never bored while watching it.

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Have you seen Run All Night? Well, what did you think?