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Predator 2 (1990)

It came to Earth to hunt. The last one staked out the Central American jungle, but this one seeks out new hunting grounds, searching for the worthiest prey. It has found what it seeks in Los Angeles. The hunt is on. And LAPD Lieutenant Mike Harrigan is definitely getting too old for this shit.

Predator 2 is a sci fi action movie directed by Stephen Hopkins, and is a sequel to the first Predator. It stars Danny Glover, Gary Busey, María Conchita Alonso, Ruben Blades, and Bill Paxton, with Kevin Peter Hall reprising his role as The Dude in the Predator Suit.

The year is 1997. Los Angeles is in the middle of both an oppressive heat wave and a turf war between the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Glover) risks his life to rescue two wounded officers and drive the Columbians back into their hideout, unaware that he is being observed by an interested third party until, bolstered with reinforcements, he defies orders and charges into the hideout to clear out the gangbangers once and for all… only to find them all slaughtered and strung up from the skylights. After catching a glimpse of something while pursuing the Columbians’ leader, Harrigan is rebuked for disobeying orders, and introduced to the source of said orders: Agent Peter Keyes (Busey), who tells him to step off, with the cryptic warning: “You do not know what you are dealing with.”

This soon proves to be completely true, when the Feds’ quarry draws Harrigan’s wrath by killing one of his team who was retrieving a speartip left lodged in an air conditioning vent. Harrigan vows to bring down his partner’s killer, but soon finds himself pursuing an alien hunter with weaponry so advanced that the Feds want to capture the thing to study its stuff. Well, if it wants to come to L.A. to find worthy prey to hunt, it is going to find exactly that in this thoroughly pissed-off cop…

I enjoyed this movie when I first saw it, and it’s still thrilling today. Predator 2 offers a bit more insight into the Predator’s motives, as well as its code of honor, by showing how it chooses its prey. It goes after the gangbangers because they’re all armed to the teeth. It slaughters a subway car full of bystanders because they’re all packing heat. It briefly considers a child pointing a plastic gun at it, but disregards him as a threat after perceiving the weapon as a toy. And it spares an armed policewoman when it sees that she is pregnant. It also demonstrates that while the Preds primarily hunt by infrared, their masks are able to help them see in other spectrums (spectra?) as well. Los Angeles is no less a jungle than the Central American setting of the first film, particularly with the gang war going on, and it has its choice of challenging targets, only to find a real thrill in hunting the cop who put seven holes in it – the first Earthling to wound it on this trip.

Danny Glover as Harrigan plays pretty much the polar opposite of Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. While Murtaugh is a straight-arrow, by-the-books cop, Harrigan is willing to do whatever it takes to get his man, even if that “man” is a seven-foot-tall alien hunter that could easily break him in half. While a very different sort of “chosen prey” than Dutch from the previous film, Harrigan is not stupid, just bullheaded. The supporting cast is decently solid, but the Feds, while they know some of the Pred’s abilities, turn out to serve only as proof of what an efficient hunter the Pred is, with the weeks of observation and planning ending abruptly in a bloodbath in much the same way the Space Marines got fricasseed in Aliens. Bill Paxton as Detective Lambert sits squarely at the “really obnoxious” end of Paxton’s usual spectrum of roles. Unfortunately, Detectives Archuleta (Blades) and Cantrell (Alonso) are not very well fleshed out, and seem to serve only to demonstrate the Pred’s deadliness and code of honor, respectively.

At the end of the day, while the story only narrowly avoids coming off as a retread of the original, Predator 2 adds quite a few details to the mythos of the Predators, and holds up as a decent follow-up to the first. Check it out next time you’re looking for a good action movie.

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