Friday, May 24, 2013

Film Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Well... this movie was everything I was afraid the first one would be. The acting could hardly be called such, the emphasis was on shocking imagery and brutality, and it was strung together so loosely with so much stupidity that I can't possible believe there was actually a script at any point during production. Unlike the first movie, which featured a number of interesting moments of character exploration on the parts of both Dutch and Jungle Hunter, there is no such exploration of the Yautja or their ways (with a little exception, which I will get to). Amidst all the traditional slasher film crap this movie attempts to emulate the stimulating scenes from the first film, including even a scene where City Hunter is tending to his wounds using the same medicinal kit that Jungle Hunter had been prepared with. This truly goes to show how uninspired the film was, and really proves that it was nothing more than a cash grab.

This movie is generally bad, but there are some good points which bring it up into the realm of merely mediocre. Unlike the first film which had very little in the way of developed or interesting characters, this one does have a couple of cool characters who are a bit more fleshed out despite and are played... okay. At least, they really shine when compared to the fumbling oafs around them. The protagonist, Mike Harrigan, is a genuinely better character than Dutch was for a few reasons. Namely, he has weaknesses. Dutch was the epitome of a male fantasy. He was powerful, smart, and the leader. Dutch was perfect. Harrigan is older, somewhat out of shape, and he has a heart condition. He's completely out of his league when dealing with drug runners let alone a Predator. This makes it all the more satisfying to see his eventual triumph over this creature which has taken everything from him.

Additionally there's the character of Jerry Lambert, a glory hound with a reputation as the best in his department who transfers into the war-torn drug district of Los Angeles to turn the tables. Despite his reputation, Jerry is at first a very annoying character with a jaw that's a little too eager, but these quirks grow on you over time. Jerry is like that friend who annoys the piss out of you while he's there, but you sorely miss him when he's not. And best of all, you know he's loyal, to a fault even. When push comes to shove, Jerry knows how to bite his tongue and get the shit done, and right away he bounces back from that. He's just an amazingly versatile and appealing character, and despite running the risk of being horrendously exaggerated, Bill Paxton found a nice balance for the character.

The rest of the cast... sucks. They're all terribly acted, poorly written, and the majority of their dialogue is "Fuck". We've got two other officers working for Harrigan who are little more than annoyances with some absolutely terrible delivery in all regards, an FBI agent with a stick up his ass (naturally), and a couple of drug cartels. Admittedly, I did like King Willy, the Jamaican drug lord, and he is given one of the coolest scenes in the film which, in stark contrast to the rest of the movie, is really damn cool. The Predator drops down from a rooftop with its cloaking still active, stomping through a puddle as he approaches the pimp. Water splashes on invisible legs in one of the few instances where the Predator's invisibility effects are actually phenomenally well done. His suit begins to malfunction as the water gets into the circuitry, buzzing electricity all over. Slowly he stomps forward while Willy waits patiently, drawing a sword from within his cane. They stand apart by about five feet, each preparing and taking poses so dramatic, and so beautiful, and so cool that it just gets your adrenaline going. If this were any other movie, you'd know an amazing action sequence was about to commence.

Unfortunately, this is Predator 2, and the director took this opportunity to cheesily cut from Willy's battle cry to his decapitated mouth dangling from the City Hunter's meaty claw. Sucks.

City Hunter isn't nearly as interesting of a character as Jungle Hunter was, but it was nice to see a little emotion from the Predator. We not only see anger, confusion, and the inquisitive nature of the Yautja species, but we see fear when Harrigan learns how to use one of the Yautjan weapons and manages to deactivate the wrist bomb, not only taking away City Hunter's honorable suicide, but also sending the Predator to what could have very easily been his death. I still don't like the City Hunter nearly as much as I like the Jungle Hunter, but just because he doesn't match up doesn't mean he's a bad character. Actually, the opposite. City Hunter feels like a much less practiced Predator than his predecessor had been, demonstrated by his larger arsenal and his tendency to fall into traps and make mistakes that I don't think the Jungle Hunter would have. Additionally, City Hunter is accompanied by an entire group of other Predators who don't participate in the hunt. Their purpose is never really explained, but it came across to me as though they were a sort of evaluation committee. City Hunter is also a bit more reckless than Jungle Hunter would have been, and he seems to have not quite figured out how strictly he wants to adhere to his moral code.

The musical score is the same as that from the first film, which means it's good. Unfortunately it doesn't quite fit the aesthetic of an urban jungle as well as it did a tropical jungle. It would have been one thing had they attempted to give the tribal sounds a more industrial tone and feel, but they just reused the same recordings and it doesn't fit very well.

The settings themselves are generally pretty generic, although there are a few cool shots of alleys and such with the neon lights of pubs and clubs bouncing off puddles and broken bottles. A lot of the movie, though, takes place in these weird makeshift bunkers by the FBI agents, and these are lit with only red emergency lamps which makes it all a little too difficult to look at. There is also one segment on a train which is absolutely terrible, and I'm sure if I had been watching this in the dark it would have given me a seizure.

Ultimately I feel this movie gave in too easily to the temptations of the more basic slasher film, with an emphasis on sex and impurity that wasn't found in the first film, and a habit of using tried and truly terrible splatter flick tropes. Happily, though, is the lack of splatter to accompany the flick. Ultimately I was disappointed with this as both a movie, but especially as a sequel. It always hurts worse when there are some good things going for it, a few good things, and that those good things are really good and surrounded by things which are really bad. You can see the potential and you want to color the movie with those good bits, but that's not true.

They are, however, good enough to pull this film from absolutely abysmal to remedial. Four out of ten for this disappointing flick.

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