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Predator (1987)

It started as a joke about Rocky’s fifth movie being about him fighting E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. This eventually evolved into an idea about a team of commandos in the Central American jungle on a rescue mission, who discover that something is hunting them back, something not native to Central America… or even planet Earth. You knew Stan Winston would get involved eventually, and, hey, there he was. The result wasn’t brilliant. It wasn’t deep or philosophical. It just kicked all kinds of ass.

Predator is a science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Jim and John Thomas. It stars Arnold “GET TO DA CHOPPA” Schwarzenegger, Carl “Rocky” Weathers, Elpidia “You mean she’s been in other stuff besides this?” Carillo, Bill “Commando” Duke, Jesse “The governor of Minnesota” Ventura, and Kevin Peter “The tall dude in the monster suit” Hall.

An alien spacecraft flies past Earth, jettisoning a pod, which heads for Central America. This will be important later. Sometime later, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) arrives in Guatemala with his elite team of mercenaries on a rescue mission: three members of the presidental cabinet have been captured by rebels. Dutch’s old military buddy George Dillon (Weathers) steps in as a liaison and joins the team, and they are dropped off in the jungle via helecopter. They find the wreckage of a downed helicopter and later the skinned bodies of what they later discover was a Special Forces unit, the presence of whom mystifies Dutch. The team tracks the guerillas to a heavily defended camp, blow shit up, and kill everyon expect for a woman named Anna (Carillo), whom they take as a prisoner. Dillon confesses that their actual mission had been to destroy the camp (which they did magnificently), and that the skinned corpses they’d found were part of a failed mission to rescue some C.I.A. agents. Dutch is pissed and starts moving his team to the extraction point, not knowing that they are being watched by something that is clearly impressed by their combat expertise, and is about to put them all to a more challenging test…

Okay, admit it: This is the point where the real plot starts. A nearly-invisible alien hunter with elaborate technology at its clawed fingertips starts hunting down the soldiers and picking them off one by one, until one man is left with the cojones and the skills to really go toe-to-toe with the thing. The whole movie is flooded with testosterone and action-packed and intense, and the “real” plot doesn’t matter. Stan Winston’s creature effects are brilliant as always, and the finished Predator looks perfectly inhuman and dangerous, but intelligent in a way that you can figure out his motivations: he is an honorable warrior, out for the challenge rather than random bloodshed just for the hell of it. The code of honor for Predators is elaborated upon in the franchise’s expanded universe, but one catches glimpses of it here – he doesn’t go after unarmed combatants, he strategized brilliantly even when out numbered, and he is able to use mind-games (like mimicking the voice of Dutch’s known-dead teammate) to spook his prey and keep them off-balance. Unlike his franchise rival, the alien Xenomorph, the Predator’s motivations can be parsed out, making him a believable member of an intelligent race.

This acting is about par for an action movie – not Shakespeare, but clearly conveying the fact that this unknown hunter is freaking them all right the hell out. Anna, as Ms. Exposition regarding the Predator, is nothing to write home about, but as a frightened civilian woman she gets the job done. Arnold is Action Hero Guy, as usual, long before he even dreamed of trying comedy, and he utterly succeeds at being Action Hero Guy, the only guy with the balls to stand up to this towering, muscular monster. Hall, the guy in the Pred suit, is 7’2 and towers over Arnold like few humans can, and (literally) wears his role very well.

So. Action. Suspense. Monsters. Shit blowing up. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you like all these, see Predator. It is a simple movie, with a simple premise and complicated special effects that would go on to form the other half of the Alien vs. Predator interfranchise rivalry. I highly recommend this film.

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