Thursday, 16 June 2016

Predator 2 (1990) - Movie Review

You ever have that film that you love but everyone else seems to despise? Maybe it's a film you grew up with, maybe it's one you have a personal connection with, maybe it's one that you think you see something in that others just don't. Whatever the reason, you just seems to like the film more than other people. I think we all have films like that.
It's okay baby, I'll still love you.
But then you go a step higher than that and you land on the film that get hates for no apparent reason. With stuff John Carter I can at least see why people don't like it, but today's film is one that, although it has flaws, does not deserve the level of visceral hatred I've seen get poured on it. Seriously, barely anyone seems to like this film. To give perspective, this film currently sits at a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes which is lower than Pan! PAN! PREDATOR 2 IS LOWER THAN PAN!
Lower by two points, but still!
If this is the hill I am to die on, then so be it. I'm here today to have a look at Predator 2 with my traditional mix of snark and insight and prove to all three of my readers why I believe Predator 2 to be a better film than most people say.
But first, a little backstory.
This film is, as if you couldn't tell, a sequel to 1987's Predator, a film where Arnold Schwarzenegger punches an alien to death in the jungle. 
Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
It wasn't the hugest hit with the critics but it made money and was generally liked by audiences so of course it got a sequel. I really like the original Predator, it's one of my favorite action movies, but we're not here to talk about that today.
Get ready to traverse the skylines of Los Angeles and make that weird clicking noise in the back of your throat as we look at Predator 2.
We open to a very 90's Fox logo
Mmmm, smells like Yo Yogi, Generation X angst and Bill Clinton sex scandals.
After panning over some jungle meant to fake you out into thinking that this Predator movie is going to be like the last one, we pan up to see a smoggy Los Angeles skyline in the far off, futuristic year of...1997!
The same year as the OJ Simpson trials! God help us all!
So after the titles explode at us we're taken directly to another explosion, namely, the explosion of gang violence in Los Angeles. Yes, it seems that in this strange, alternate, alien, version of the City of Angels (remember, this movie came out in 1990), gang violence runs rampant through the street, the Mayor is corrupt and the News is too afraid to do its job.
So y'know, not that much different from now, really.
Anyway, we partake in a thrilling action sequence as cops trade gun fire with stereotypical Colombian gangsters.
We are Speedy Gangzales, the fastest shooting men in all of Mejico Colombia!
In any case, its made clear that the streets of Los Angeles need a level of law above the ordinary police officer. Someone who will stand fast against the rising of crime. A cop who will be robotic in his dispense of justice, who will protect the innocent, serve the public trust and uphold the law. Someone like Robocop!

I kid, but I would be lying if I said I didn't think this film cribbed just a little from Robocop.
Pfft, yeah, just let me know where I can buy my 6000 SUX.
In any case this particular news bulletin is disrupted when our main character nearly runs over the anchor, Tony Pope (Morton Downey Junior, a man surprisingly unrelated to Robert Downey Junior). It's here we meet our no-nonsense, loose canon, totally never been done before main character Detective Mike Harrigan played by Danny Glover.
No, I said DANNY Glover
Much better.
I'm not racist I swear.
Glover makes for a fine leading man despite the grandpa pants he's wearing in every scene, though I can't help but prefer the hamminess of AHNULD a little more.
In any case Harrigan arrives on the scene, busts out a pistol and starts dropping gangsters. He consolidates with his two partners Danny Archuleta (Ruben Blades) and Leona Cantrell (Maria Conchita Alonso).
Danny seen here wearing a pair of glasses right out of the latest "Amish Chic" catalog.
Harrigan demands to know whats going on and the other two relay that they've basically been stuck in a shoot out with a cartel of gangsters, two cops that tried to sneak in have been dropped and are dying and special weapons have been delayed because one of their choppers has been shot down.
Harrigan comes out with  the brilliant plan of "drive a car real fast and shoot some fools". Which he does, but unbeknownst to him and indeed all those around him, they are being watched by a strange force.
*Predator Noise*
Harrigan manages to sneak behind the gangsters and defeat them in classic 80's cop fashion delivering a smooth one liner before hand.
The other gangsters retreat into the building to put more bullets in their guns and "baking powder" in their noses.
Harrigan, desperate to live up to his "Renegade Cop" stereotype, moves into the building, against the Chief's wishes.
However, they won't have to worry about the gangsters as the Predator (played once again by Kevin Peter Hall) decides to drop in.

*Badun Tish*
The Predator slaughters the gangsters off screen as Harrigan and co. ascend the building. One of the gangsters busts out and runs up to roof, with Harrigan taking pursuit. The Gangster, having been traumatized, doesn't listen to Harrigan's threats to drop the guns, when a familiar face drops in.
"Do you want to be in Aliens vs. Predator, directed by Paul WS Anderson?"

"Didn't he make Mortal Kombat: Annihilation?'

"No thanks."
The Gangster fires on the Predator, which causes Harrigan to shoot him off the building. Harrigan runs over to the edge to see the mess he's made, but he's clearly uneasy of the height. This a weird reoccurring thing in the movie with Harrigan being afraid of heights, and although it does come back later, it never really leads anywhere.
He turns and sees...The Predator, having made his first big appearance just 10 minutes into the movie!
"Ah, damn it! I wanted a close up, but I'm cloaked, no one can see me! You'll pay for this Harrigan, you'!"
The Predator decides to not roast Harrigan there for...some reason (I mean, Harrigan was even pointing his gun right at him, by Predator rules he's fair game!) and slips away.

Danny joins Harrigan on the roof and then does something that always bothers me every time I watch this film, he squats near the edge of a roof!
I mean, a sharp gust of wind and he's street meat! Whatever.
They head back down to the room where the gangsters were keeping all of their guns and "baking powder" to investigate.
They discover that all the gangsters were fully armed, yet they completely slaughtered anyway. They speculate about how this could have happened in a scene that basically goes like this:

HARRIGAN: Who the hell did this?
DANNY: I dunno

They spot a body up in the rafters, and they all become spooked. As they leave, the Predator takes the body.
Heading back outside, Harrigan is chewed out by DA CHIEF about his disobeying of rules and that he should have waited for the Feds. Harrigan takes it less than well.
"Don't test me Harrigan, the last time I had to deal with a rogue cop I almost Died Hard!"
The Feds arrive and quarter off the building. Harrigan tries to go after the Chief but is stopped by Danny.

From here we cut to an extremely busy Police Station, packed with over-worked cops, barely restrained criminals and worst of all...80's BILL PAXTON!
"I learned this trick from my time in the Marines!"
His character tries to talk to Harrigan, but he blows him off. Harrigan goes into the Captain's office. Wait, are Police Captains above Police Chief''s? On the embarrassingly long list of things I don't know diddly about, "Police Stuff" is right near the top.Whatever. Basically he informs Harrigan that he is to stay away from any drug busts as that is being handed off to the head of the feds, Peter Keyes, who is played by Gary Busey at his Gary Busey-est.
"Don't worry Captain, I will eat him soon enough"
Harrigan leaves in a way that feigns respect and then heads into his office. He and Danny talk about the bust and figure that it must be the result of "King Willie" a local drug-lord hiring some outside talent to decimate the competition. Danny informs Harrigan that Bill Paxton's character, Jerry Lambert, is their new recruit. They spot him schmoozing on Leona, which they both start laughing at. I will say that Danny Glover and Ruben Blades have very good chemistry and you really believe their friendship.
Lambert's attempts at flirtation end about as well as you would expect.
"Game over man, game over!"
Harrigan calls Lambert in and says that if he's going to survive on the mean streets of Los Angeles, then they all need to work together.
Hey, I just realized, both the Predator and Alien franchises have a character named "Lambert" in them. Huh. Well, I bet that will be the very last Alien reference in this movie!

From there we cut across town to later that night where a Colombian drug lord and his lady friend are performing a very enthusiastic game of Twister. They get interrupted by a group of Jamaican Gangsters (Ugh, typical right?), who string the drug lord up by his feet and threaten to use "Voodoo magic" on him.
"Ah even got all dis ketchup for da ceramonee mon!"
Hey, Hollywood writers, I know this movie was made in 1990 but I still see this going on, so, this...



If anything it's theme park of Voudo! Voodoo, is a religion much like Catholicism actually, with one God but many Saints (or in this case, Loa). What you're depicting here is Voudo or Hoo-doo, the spiritual underpinnings of Voodoo, but not actually the practices of Voodoo itself, so please get it right!

Anyway, the Jamaicans murder the dude and then I'm going to give you one guess as to who shows  up.
Yes, it's the Kool-Aid Man, he shows up and gives all the Jamaicans drinks COME ON!
No, the Predator shows up and starts wrecking up the place. Although I'm not really all that worried about them because at least one of these guys is clearly a robot because he bleeds sparks.
Oh no mon, he hit ma Jamaican slang gen-ah-ratah mon!
In any case, the Predator murders the dreadlocks off of these fools and then goes about his business.

Cut to a while later and the police have arrived and cordoned off the area. Harrigan and Danny get out and are immediately beset by Pope, but Lambert is able to scare him off. They want to go in, but the police radio says that need to wait for the Feds. Harrigan decides, "Screw That!" and heads inside with his team anyway.
There's something very familiar about all this.
They bust into the room with all the murder and discover all of the Jamaicans, hung from the roof by their feet and with their skin flayed off.
She's a bitch.
They inspect the room, Danny notices a strange looking dart stuck in an air vent above them and they find the Colombian Drug Lord's still living lady friend, who for the longest time I could SWEAR was played by Rachel Weisz, but isn't. Eventually they come to the conclusion that the guy responsible for this massacre and the one back at the armory in the beginning is a new face in town.

Just then Keyes and his men burst in and demand that Harrigan and company leave the scene immediately. He pulls Harrigan aside and basically threatens him to stay out of his business. Pope is spotted spying on them and is so "escorted" out of the building. Keyes walks off but Harrigan isn't done with him and goes to stop him when he's stopped by JAYNE!
The Hero of Canton, the man they call JAYNE!
Heading back outside, Harrigan gets Lambert to follow Keyes and find out where they take the girl, and asks Danny to wait around before they can go investigate the room.
Before we continue I'd just like to say, I totally ship Harrigan and Danny. They're Finn and Poe levels of cute bro-mance,
Harrigan and Lambert meet up, and Lambert informs his boss that the Feds took the girl into a Silver Chopper, and that's where he lost them. Harrigan sets Lambert on tracking the man with a million teeth and then Lambert goes on to schmooze more women. Which, actually, does end better than last time, but then again, a situation wherein you're trapped in a sinking cargo crate that's slowly filling with water would probably end better than Lambert's last schmoozing attempt.

Cutting back to Danny, and he's decided to jump the gun and go investigate the room himself. This leads to a slow, very well done scene of Danny investigating the room, climbing up the rafters and retrieving the alien spearhead. Unfortunately, for Danny (and my fan-fiction) it ends about as well as you'd expect. 
"Would you like to star in Predators?"

"From the guy who directed Spy Kids?"
In the next scene, Harrigan gets chewed out about Danny's death, but narrowly avoids losing his job. The Captain goes after Danny and demands he stay out of the case, but Harrigan decides that he's pulled a Jaws: The Revenge and decides it's personal!

He spots Keyes and chases him down and pushes him against a wall. What ensues is a glorious ham-to-ham combat between Danny Glover and Gary Busey that is so enormously hamtastic that it almost threatens dethrone Captain Wolverine Blackbeard as King of Ham Mountain.
Basically they tell each other to stay out of each other's way.
Okay to save on time I'm speed through these next two scenes so we can get to the real juicy stuff.
Harrigan is reminded by Leona and Lambert that he's not an island and needs their help. Lambert was able to track Keyes down to the Slaughterhouse district where he then lost them and Harrigan orders Leona to set up a meeting with King Willie.
After a brief interlude where Keyes is seen field testing...something, we cut over to a forensics lab where an old scientist lady studies the alien spear tip and finds it to be...well...alien. And this is really my only big problem with the film. We spend half the movie with Harrigan and company who's doing all the murdering around town, but we the audience already know who it is, it's the Predator. This isn't too bad, as the character are likable to follow around, but this does stink a bit of the movie Devil, a movie that thinks its audience is too stupid to figure out that the bad guy is the Devil.
There's a reason why they didn't call Jaws "It's a Wonderful Shark!"
In any case, Harrigan is picked up King Willie's goons and taken to see...well, King Willie. But unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by a hunter from the shadows.
"Oh man, King Willie? I love that guy! I'm going to go get his autograph!"
The goons drop Harrigan off and King Willie emerges from the shadows, in a Voodoo get up about as authentic as a Pirates of the Caribbean extra.
He DOES have a pretty swank ass cane though.
Okay despite my ribbing of his costume, the guy playing King Willie (Calvin Lockhart) is clearly having a ball, and is absolute joy to watch despite his limited screen time. Y'know, with all of those unnecessary Cinematic Universe springing in the wake of Marvel's success, why not make a spin-off of King Willie? "King Willie's Super Happy Fun Time of Death", I'd watch the hell out of that!
"Bring da kiddies, mon."
They exchange in a brief conversation where Harrigan learns basically nothing. He leaves, but just after the Predator drops down into the alley.
"Oh my infernal God of the Hunt Vlurhg, it's King Willie! Can I have your autograph?"
After the Predator cleans off the "autograph" he collected from King Willie and puts on display next to Elvis' (I assume), we cut to Harrigan on the phone with his team, who inform him that Keyes has been spending a lot of time around the slaughterhouses.

Cut to the next day and Harrigan is visiting Danny's grave. The Predator watches on when a small child runs holding a plastic gun. The Predator scans and the boy and realizes he is no threat. That's something I've always liked about the Predator films, they have a code of honor, which actually makes them kind of likable (you know aside from all the murdering they do), instead of just being a big stupid alien for our main protagonist to throw around.
The boy offers the Predator candy, but because The Predator is on a meat only diet he refuses. The boy runs off and tells his parents that he saw a "Ghost".
"This almost as bad as that time your sister said she saw Superman!"
Harrigan pays his respects and begins to head back to his car, when he spots a sight that instills him with great fear!
No actually, that's Danny's necklace, which the Predator is trying to screw with Harrigan. And the  Harrigan spins around in very which direction with the music stinging every time he does, which should be dramatic, but instead comes off as a more intense repeating version of this.
Just play this five times, and you've basically recapped this scene.
In any case, Harrigan snatches the necklace and undoubtedly needs to go find himself a new of grandpa pants.

Smash cut to a (clearly San Franciscan) subway train, and Lambert and Leona are dealing with some hooligans hooliganising some innocent commuters. The hooligans bully an Aperture Scientist looking dude, which is clearly their last mistake.
"I'm about to show you why they say ya shouldn't "look at the operating end of the device"!"
The nerd pulls a gun on the hooligans, which in turn makes them pull theirs gun on him and, because this is Los Angeles, everyone pulls a gun on them, including Lambert and Leona.
Damn, even Granny's packing!
Now what happens next is fairly obvious, everyone realises that guns are dangerous and extremely powerful weapons that should not be used. So they all put them away calmly, and and the rest of the film is a discussion on the use of gun violence.

No wait, sorry...

*Reads script*

Sorry, read the wrong script! What I meant to say was, DEATH! DEATH AND PAIN! THE PREDATOR COMES TO REAP THEIR SINS!

Yes, somehow, the Predator knows that guns are on this specific train and busts through the roof, causing all the lights to flicker in a way that is guaranteed to cause seizures.
" have learned well my crab-faced apprentice!"
So the Predator does what the Predator does best, shoving one guy through a window...

...and makes Granny talk to the hand.

Now the rest of the scene is really incomprehensible to tell in pictures so you're just going to have to bear with me. Lambert draws the Predator's attention whilst Leona moves everyone else down to the back of the train cart. The Predator slowly advances on Lambert but he keeps firing in its direction and missing, despite the fact that Predator is LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM! Seriously. And later we discover that the Predator definitely isn't bullet proof, so, the only conclusion one can draw is that Lambert is a terrible shot.
Certainly would explain a lot.
In any case, The Predator joins the Terminator and the Aliens from Aliens in receiving the prestigious "killed a character played by Bill Paxton" award, and Leona stops the train and all the passengers flee. She doubles back around to investigate but gets jumped by the Predator. However, because she's pregnant (hi plot point that was ever alluded and is never brought up again!) the Predator lets her live.

Cut to later and Harrigan has arrived on the scene of the crime. He tries to talk to Leona, but she's carted away into an ambulence and subsequently, out of this movie. Seriously, we never see her again. He runs down past the train and spots The Predator ripping out Lambert's spine (So the Terminator punched his heart out, the Alien snuggled him to death off-screen and The Predator goes all metal and rips out his freaking spine! Yeah, I'd say the Predator earned that trophy). They escape up to the street and the Predator climbs up. Harrigan heads to his car to pursue, but Pope tries to stop him. I think I'll let Shepard reenact how Harrigan deals with the situation. 

And so begins the 45 minute long climax. No, seriously, the last third of this movie is the climax involving Harrigan taking on the Predator.

Harrigan chases the bastard down with his car before he gets blindsided by Keyes' goons and taken to their headquarters. Meanwhile the Predator is very stealth-fully roaring in triumph on the top of a building.
Inside Keyes' HQ, he divulges to Harrigan their plan to take down The Predator in the slaughterhouse using nitroglycerin cannons, heat deflecting suits (the Predator can only see in infra-red) and ultra-violet lights.

Keyes and his goons head in to the slaughterhouse with the Predator to flush him out, but he's not taking the bait.
"Hmm, my Predator sense is tingling!"
It's here that the Predator introduces a new staple to the Predator mythos, alternate vision modes! You know, I just realized, Predators would be much better hunters if they could just see in normal vision.
He cycles through the visions until he finds one that allows him to see the Ultra violet lights.

Also, this scene is a shameless rip off of Aliens.

In any case, The Predator makes short work of Keyes and his goons (y'know, I find myself having to find a lot of different way to say "the Predator jumps down and murders some fools in this review). Harrigan, seeing that everything has gone to poop, arms up and bursts into the slaughterhouse ready to take on the Predator.
The Predator tries to cloak, but finds that the water from the sprinklers is shorting his technology. This always bugged me, how come futuristic advanced alien technology is shorted out by water? Hell we have PHONES that can survive more than a little wetness!
"Aw man, I KNEW I shouldn't have upgraded to Windows 10!"
The two engage in some shooting and brawling, with both taking hits, but the Predator is seemingly felled when Harrigan slugs him full of shotgun shells.

He approaches the Predator's "corpse" and removes his mask, takes the Predator's body to a local lab, gets untold riches and retires to the Bahamas.
At least that's what would have happened if the Predator didn't immediately wake up.
"Try to steal my close-up from me, you son of a bitch!"
Actually, this does lead to my only other problem with this movie, the Predator doesn't look as good. Yes, I know that's incredibly petty, but just look at the beast from the original Predator.
Even HE knows how awesome he looks.
Stan Winston's effects works on the original Predator are so good and seamless, that to this day I am convinced that they got an actual alien to play the part. The Predator from Predator 2 on the other hand, looks like a guy in a big rubber suit. It's not so bad when he has his mask on, but when you see the Predator's face it becomes fairly obvious.

Still, it's leagues above the Predators from Aliens vs. Predator.
*Predator fart*
The Predator shoves Harrigan aside and breaks his gun. But before the Predator can make Mike sandwiches, Keyes jumps back in and saves the day...before he gets undercut by the Predator's flying disc of doom. come his only legs fall down, and not the upper half of his body.
The reason is Gary Busey is a wizard.
I mean...obviously!
Alright so skip through some climax, *deep breath*, the Predator and Harrigan fight on a roof top when they fall down onto a ledge. The Predator, with one hand in the spinning disc of doom embedded in the wall and one hand hanging onto Harrigan, activates the self destruct device. Harrigan is able to cut through it just at the last second before it goes off, causing the Predator to fall down the building, grab onto a pipe and smash into a bathroom. It tries to repair itself using...something, while Harrigan slowly climbs down a pipe into the building. From there he chases it through the building and down an elevator shaft before landing in the Predator's ship.
*deep exhale*

Harrigan slowly makes his way through the Predator's ship. The ship is fairly interestingly designed, but unfortunately, does dean this Monty Python reference apt. 

He continues to make his way through a ship that looks the smoke machine maintenance guy had an off day, when he runs into one of the greatest Easter  Eggs of all time.
Oh my's the skull of a T-Rex from Jurassic Park!
No, of course among those trophies you can make out the skull one of the Aliens from Aliens. Which means that these two franchises can now officially crossover, a proposition that will only lead to good things

Yes I will review them too, someday.A day I fear like a worm fears an eagle.
The Predator jumps back out and the two engage in a bit of inter-planetary swashbuckling until Harrigan is finally able to decisively defeat the Predator. does he retire to the Bahamas?
NO! At least half a dozen more Predators (which I imagine is the reason behind the lesser effects) emerge from the shadows and train their guns on him.
"Man...I am too OLD for this sh*t!"
Ah, come on, you knew I couldn't finish this review without making at least one Lethal Weapon joke.
Fortunately for Harrigan, these particular Rastafarian space gun-nuts are not interested in killing him, and at least one Predator elder  hands him an antique gun as a sign of respect. The alien ship takes off but Harrigan escapes just in time. He emerges back out into the outside where Keyes' right hand man (you know, the one played by JAYNE!) demands to know what happened and is pissed that they missed their chance. 
"Dammit, now I'm going to have to go into space MYSELF!"
Harrigan gives one meaningful look to the sky and remarks that they'll get another chance.
And they would, 20 years later and starring that guy from The Pianist for...some ungodly reason.

Is Predator 2 a perfect movie? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. It plot holes out the wazoo, it's awkwardly structured with a climax that takes up half the film's running time and the effects just straight up aren't as good as the first movie. However, do any of these faults stop the film from being a kick-ass, cheesy 80's action romp? Absolutely not! The actors give entertaining performances, the action is a lot of fun and the Predator is always fun to watch when he's doing what he does best. So no, Predator 2 is not a perfect film, but it does not deserve the hatred it gets and receives a very solid Copper Award for Certified Cinematic Goodness

Next Post: 23/06/2016
Oh no...

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