Before “The Expendables” was ever put in to production, director John McTiernan had the foresight to include a roster of cinematic bad asses for a film that involved a bunch of mercenaries battling an unseen hunter in the jungles of Central America. From Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham and the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Predator” features a conglomerate of muscles and sweat that makes up one of the best casts of an action film ever. 1987 brought forth one of the most unique and innovative action thrillers ever conceived.
“Predator” skirted the edges of B movie cheese to become an grade A science fiction actioner about a stealthy powerful alien foe who begins to systematically knock off threatening mercenaries that have just happened to interfere in its fight for survival in a foreign world when its ship crash lands in the jungles of Guatemala. Just then Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer is called in to the country with his team of soldiers to rescue a hostage of local guerillas. But nothing is as it seems as most of the Guerillas seem to have no idea why local American soldiers and pilots have turned up hung upside down and skinned like animals. While seizing a hostage for their operation and attempting to make it back to their rendezvous they discover for themselves that they’re all being hunted by something sinister who seems to have the upper hand in combat and will stop at nothing to reduce the group to trophies for its sick games.
“Predator” in spite of its initial mixed reception from critics has been one of the most influential science fiction films of all time and for good reason. The film is teeming with enthusiasm and charm relying heavily on its cast to keep it moving along and they oblige two fold. Every character is allowed their own moment against the creature and in spite of failing fantastically to bring it to its knees learn what a true prey is like in the cruel jungles of this country. Most of the film’s action sequences are still so utterly exciting and atmospheric, especially considering this is a film from the late eighties.
The thermal imagery point of view shots along with the droning of the creature’s own technology is still a trademark genre facet on par with the Jaws theme and signals a moment in time where it promises to destroy anyone around it. What begins as a simple slash and grab film transforms in to a fight for survival as the soldiers soon figure out their tactics are pointless against this unseen foe and must try to re-build their own principles of self-preservation or die at the talons of this monster. Director McTiernan wisely keeps the predator obscured by trees and its high tech cloaking device that makes it a presence that’s somewhat omnipotent and incredibly aggressive, especially when its prey responds to its attacks in kind.
Once the body count begins rising, the battle between man and alien mounts in to an exciting battle of wits between Schwarzenegger’s own “Dutch” and this crab faced hunter, both of whom are intent on eliminating the other while reaping the benefits of war. “Predator” is a very testosterone laced action thriller with an enemy that was one of a kind back in the eighties and it still holds up as a prime piece of entertainment for anyone in the market for military roughnecks taking on an alien foe. Even for a film made in 1987, John McTiernan’s action thriller still feels fresh and unique with great performances, an excellent cast, and an enemy that would be imitated for years and never quite matched in terms of menace, aggression and all out eye appeal.