It’s tough being a sequel sometimes…
It’s even tougher being a sequel to one of the greatest science-fiction action movies of all damn time, but that’s always been the lot of Predator 2’s life. My initial viewing on a grainy VHS pirate copy back in the 90’s, lead me to the early and utterly wrong conclusion that it was a crippling let down. But times moves on, opinions change and it’s nigh about time people give this city set sequel the love it truly deserves.
It’s 1997 (a.k.a THE FUTURE!!) and the mandible-faced space hunters have moved their attention to the urban jungles of L.A., now (then? will be?) a bullet laced war zone being strip mined by multiple coke dusted drug gangs. Caught in the cross-fire of shoulder mounted plasma cannons and semi automatic weapons is Lt. Mike Harrigan of the L.A.P.D. played with all the sandpapery growl that Danny Glover can muster. Him and his ethnically diverse team of cops desperately try to keep their skulls from ending up as some alien’s funky ashtray despite the chaos raging squarely toward destination: fucked.
Chaos (in a good way) is probably the best word to describe this incredibly earnest follow up. It starts, literally, in the middle of a blistering gun battle, reporters screaming, flipping Volkswagens, the whole nine yards, and then proceeds so hold that level of mental right the way to the closing credits. Different accents of varying quality smash into each other like asteroids, terror gangs The El Scorpions and their rivals, The Jamaican Voodoo Posse, and in particular their leader, King Willie ham up their lines magnificently and are endlessly quotable. It’s all so overblown in fact, you get the distinct suspicion that the Machu Pichu sized mountains of cocaine on display here may also have used to pay the key members of the crew… certainly Gary Busey at least. The direction, the editing, the score, the performances, everything is dialled gleefully up to 11 whether the scene calls for it or not. Example: a sedate scene involving a grieving Danny Glover visiting a graveyard turns into a ridiculously overplayed chunk of testosterone when he suddenly pulls his gun and whirls around in a panic as the music, camerawork and repeated jump cuts maniacally beat the viewer across the head and neck.
The cast are game, Glover, while no Schwazenegger, is a more vulnerable, fatherly target for the intergalactic space-wanker, the late, great Bill Paxman is… well… Bill Paxman and Gary “A FUCKING ALIEN!” Busey’s performance consumes every and all in it’s path “The lions… The tigers… The bears… OH MY!”. Not even Galactus couldn’t ingest this much of the set in one sitting.
And what of the true star of the show? Despite looking a tad rubbery in close ups, this Predator (a younger one of the species) does more damage on safari than a Texan dentist, unleashing his improved array of shiny death weapons which include a telescopic spear, a razor sharp net and, my personal favourite, what appears to be a murder frisbee. The juxtaposition of the dreadlocked alien with the Jamaican gang members (who also hang up victims by their heels) is pretty cool image and his final, ridiculously long footchase/showdown with Glover mirrors the finale of the original nicely with a few awesome surprises.
Problems? Only if you count being almost irredeemably silly a problem, Predator 2’s only real sin is that of, say, True Detective Season 2. On it’s own terms it’s pretty damn good, but compared to it’s predecessor?…. The movie simply can’t out-cool, or out-tough it’s older brother so it does what any younger sibling does in a situation like that. It goes utterly mental to get attention. But other than that, stupid is as stupid does, but when it’s done right it’s a Hell of a lot of fun.
With Shane Black’s The Predator mere months away at the time of writing, the question of whether or not this lunatic opus can hold it’s position as the second greatest Predator movie ever made may be up in the air (it IS Shane Black after all) but that shouldn’t stop a long overdue re-evaluation of an endearing flick. It may be one ugly motherfucker, but take a closer look and you may like what you see.