I’d forgotten how frustrated I was with Predator 2. Granted, I remember seeing it theatrically and really not thinking good thoughts of it, but seeing it again recently only refreshed all of the disappointment I felt with what shoulda/coulda/woulda been a fantastic follow-up and (minimally) the start of a better franchise.
Having done a fair amount of reading into the film (well, what’s available via web outlets anyway), I realized that Arnold Schwarzenegger – star of the original film – was the first choice to headline the follow-up, and that’s a creative move that would’ve made far greater sense than bringing in new blood. However, what I did learn was that Arnold backed out due to what arguably is an incredibly insignificant amount of money ($250,000 less than what he wanted); I can only imagine that the producers were kicking themselves as this vacancy probably cost them at least that much in rewrites alone, though I’m not entirely convinced that was money well spent either.
Basically what you have with Predator 2 is the great return of the alien hunter but, this time, he’s been transferred from the mighty jungle to one vastly more urban: the gang-filled streets of Los Angeles. Somehow (in a plot contrivance that never quite gets developed) the Predator has decided to “clean up the streets” of the Bloods, the Crips, the Jets, and the Sharks, only to come up against the toughest beat cop this side of dirty Harry in the form of Michael Harrigan (played by Danny Glover). Naturally, the cop gets his own team; and together they chase down the alien, but not at the expense of a few of the city’s finest. Before all is said and done, Harrigan and the Hunter (could’ve been a sitcom) go mano’a’mano in the big finish, with the script holding back a trump card for a reveal that gives Glover the chance to deliver a truly funny quip … much like Schwarzenegger would’ve done.
While I loved the move from the jungle to the wild streets, that’s honestly about all I did love in Predator 2.
The performances are all rote, with each and every character feeling more obligatory than they did authentic to even what was intended as a hard-boiled script. The lovely Maria Conchita Alonso is wasted as the bitter female officer whose adopted the ways of men in order to survive in life (and this motion picture); the great Bill Paxton basically repeats the work he did in James Cameron’s Aliens as a streetwise new detective who thinks he’s God’s gift to mankind; and Ruben Blades is not given enough material or screen time to shine the way he has in smaller roles. Glover’s Harrigan is what I’d call a cinematic paradox: the actor had only recently been made famous by playing Roger “I’m too old for this sh#t” Murtaugh (Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon) and appears entirely out-of-place in a roll better suited for, say, Mel Gibson?
Why, even the Predator himself (herself?) never quite seems up to snuff here as his abilities with invisibility tend to come and go as either the screenplay requires or perhaps the production people simply forget the hunter had that talent. He has no problem mowing down gangbangers, one after another, but it takes him apparently a level of advanced concentration to hit one of contracted headliners.
As I said, I totally got into the move from the jungle to the city, but Jim and John Thomas’s script really lacked cohesion in understanding what made the Predator such a tangible menace in the first film, instead reducing the character to some kind of urban stalker with the face of – well – female genitalia. In their hands, the hunter gets reduced to a weird urban Jack the Ripper albeit with better tools. This was only director Stephen Hopkins third film, and perhaps a more experienced storyteller would’ve noticed all of the narrative weaknesses in the pre-production stage, as so very much of the film “feels” like he shouted ‘action’ and let everyone just roll with it.
That said, I’m certainly glad that the Predator franchise continued (after a time), though none of the subsequent installments really got any better. In that respect, Predator 2 kinda/sorta underscores that maybe this particular alien shtick still evades quality understanding for untested screenwriters. This means that someone might eventually go back to the creative nuances of the first feature and recapture what made the hunt worth repeating.