In 1987, a team of ex-military mercenaries was sent into the jungles of “Val Verde” to track down a downed military helicopter carrying a high-ranking official. Only one member of the mercenary team survived, and it was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, I’m talking about the classic action movie Predator. The film turns 30 today, and it’s every bit as good as ever.
Predator is an action film that is as straightforward as they come. There’s little complexity to the story. A team is sent in on a secret mission, an alien creature who enjoys hunting violent prey is prowling the jungle, and a fight for survival ensues. There is some backstabbing subplot that has little importance on the overall story, but it does give the story some sense of depth outside of “survive the alien super-hunter.”
Director John McTiernan only had one film under his belt, the underrated Nomads. Predator launched McTiernan’s career. The following year he’d director Die Hard, then The Hunt For Red October in 1990. A few years later he would reunite with Schwarzenegger in The Last Action Hero.
At this point in his career, Arnold was firmly on a trajectory as a superstar of action cinema. Before Predator, Arnold had hits in Conan and Commando. After Predator, the Terminator destroyed box offices with Total Recall, Terminator 2, True Lies, Kindergarten Cop, Twins, and Jingle All the Way. Predator was another perfect vehicle for the verbally challenged star. Little talk, a lot of action, and one-liners galore that Schwarzenegger delivered with a bit of joy in his smirk.
Kevin Peter Hall
The late Kevin Peter Hall wasn’t a movie star. To put it in modern-day terms, he was the Andy Serkis or Doug Jones of the 80s. If a part required a tall person in a creature costume, then Hall was the man to call. Hall’s body language as the Predator is excellent, particularly the heft with which he took every step, giving the titular creature a dangerous sense of thick, muscle-bound strength.
Weathers found fame as the antagonist-turned-friend of Rocky in the Rocky film series. In the 80s, Weathers had a couple of action hits too, the best of which is Action Jackson. In Predator, Weathers’ Dillon is a tough company man who loses his beefy arms via laser blasts.
Navy SEAL turned wrestler, turned actor, turned governor, turned exile living in Mexico; that’s Ventura in a nutshell. Albeit, one big, complicated nutshell. His cocky, mini-gun wielding merc, Blaine, chews tobacco and talks tough. But the Predator eventually puts a hole in his chest.
Most people know Black from Iron Man 3 or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but the writer/actor/director has quite a history in Hollywood. He plays a small role in Predator in the same year Lethal Weapon, a film Black wrote, became a box office sensation.
Predator is an undoubted classic of 80s action cinema. The simplicity of the plot and characters makes it as easy a watch today as it was 30 years ago. Though a sci-fi film, there aren’t a lot of special FX in use here. What McTiernan does is subtle and sparse, which keeps the FX looking good even today. Predator birthed two direct sequels (Predator 2 and Predators) and two crossover films with the Alien franchise (Alien vs. Predator). Shane Black is coming back to the jungles where he was eviscerated with a reboot of the series coming in 2018.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
“Get to the choppa!” (<— Click on this link for one awesomely metal music video!)
“I ain’t got time to bleed.”
“You’re one ugly mother f*cker!”
“What’s the matter Dillon? CIA got you pushing too many pencils?”
“I said to my girlfriend, ‘Geez you gotta big pussy … geez you gotta big pussy.” “Why’d you say it twice?” “I didn’t.”