Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator (1987)


(director: John McTiernan; screenwriters: Jim Thomas/John Thomas; cinematographer: Donald McAlpine; editor: John F. Link; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Major Dutch Schaefer), Carl Weathers (Dillon), Elpidia Carrillo (Anna), Bill Duke (Mac), Jesse Ventura (Blain), Sonny Landham (Billy), Richard Chaves (Poncho), Shane Black (Hawkins), R. G. Armstrong (General Phillips), Kevin Peter Hall (Alien); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lawrence Gordon/Joel Silver/John Davis; 20th Century Fox; 1987)

“An unpleasant action thriller that’s about as thrilling as watching a fixed fight in the pro wrestling circuit.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Scripted by the Thomas brothers, Jim and John, and helmed by action director John McTiernan (“Die Hard”/”The Hunt For Red October”/”Medicine Man”), the film is an unpleasant action thriller that’s about as thrilling as watching a fixed fight in the pro wrestling circuit and should appeal to the same audience type or fans of Rambo. It’s a thinly plotted nonsensical comic-book sci-fi film, that delivers the usual undemanding thrills for an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. The muscle man was at the height of his popularity when this vacuous film was made, and it bares its Midas blockbuster touch through its excellent optical special effects and the excellent Stan Winston creature design. Otherwise it’s stilted, the dialogue is banal, the characters undeveloped and its good production values only hide its B-film soul. There’s lots of rumbles in the jungle, but what this murky film is all about is hard to say except seeing Arnold bare his chest and take on an ET rival.

Dutch(Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the macho major and leader of an elite commando unit somewhere in the jungles of Central America (shot in Mexico). They are there at the request of General Phillips (R.G. Armstrong), who asks them to rescue a cabinet minister after a helicopter crash and before guerrillas can grab them since it went down across a border that is unfriendly. Tracking down the crashed ‘copter, they uncover three of its occupants strung up and skinned in the jungle near where they crash-landed—seemingly by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile. The commandos carry out a raid on an enemy army base, and soon learn that they’ve been duped since there probably was no cabinet minister aboard (some critics claim this is an allegory of the Vietnam War and how the soldiers were lied to about their missions).

Dillon (Carl Weathers), though in an army uniform, is revealed to be a CIA man who was sent by the general to get the only unit who could take on such a risky rescue job. But he knew all along that the mission wasn’t about rescuing a politician, to the chagrin of Dutch and his fearsome warriors. The six men now move desperately in the jungle to get to the chopper and leave the area with a pretty Latino prisoner in tow – Anna (Elpidia Carrillo). The platoon suddenly finds themselves being attacked in a grisly fashion by an alien (Kevin Peter Hall) who uses laser beams (it seems that early shot of an alien spacecraft landing on Earth, delivered by accident this serial killer monster). The 7 foot 2 alien, like the human hunter in the film The Most Dangerous Game, is hunting the soldiers for sport and challenges only those who are armed. This alien believes in a fair fight, which I guess makes him better than the Commie guerrillas.

We then get to watch the platoon get picked off one by one. Hawkins (Shane Black) gets brutalized by the alien, as does Blain (Jesse Ventura), Billy (Sonny Landham), Mac (Bill Duke), Poncho (Richard Chaves) and Dillon. That leaves the climactic fight between the Predator and Dutch, which takes up the last thirty minutes of the film. But that is only routinely done, as the alien very sportingly peels off its armor and weapons to square off in hand to hand combat with our boy Dutch.

I would have liked to have heard the politics discussed on a break between Ventura and Schwarzenegger, which might have been more engaging than the bang-bang film.