Predator 2 (1990): 8 out of 10: Released to a meh critical response, Predator 2 takes the titular Predator into both the jungles of Los Angeles and the near future (1997!!!) where society has broken down and the gangs rule the city. Turns out time has been kind to both Los Angeles and the film Predator 2.
The Good: I remember being unimpressed by this film when it came out. No Schwarzenegger and not as good as the first Predator. (Both these statements are still true BTW). So what has changed?
Well, first, we have a bit of the same effect that we had with Erotic Thrillers. In my review of Body of Evidence, I pointed out:
Erotic thrillers enjoyed a moment between Basic Instinct and Showgirls. We don’t see them like these anymore and haven’t for a long time. There were a lot of them during that time-period (Heck there were two with Billy Baldwin for God’s sake) So we often will revisit the lesser-known ones for some nostalgia much like future generations will watch Ant-Man and muse how they don’t make Superhero movies anymore.
Crime ridden gang controlled future movies used to be a dime a dozen as well. (Along with a sister trend of out of control violent high schools). Hollywood was simply taking the crime wave of the late eighties and early nineties and amping it up to its logical conclusion. Because, as we all know, when a trend starts, there is nothing that will ever change again.
We no longer have these movies and have not for quite a while. (Though with the current crime wave, they are ripe for a revival.) As a result, there is some well-earned nostalgia for Predator 2, which actually does a fine job in the genre.
When it was released, Predator 2 was the worst Predator film ever made. Well, that is also clearly no longer the case. Predator 2 actually does a surprising amount of world building for the franchise, not the least of which is introducing the idea of Predator vs. Alien in the form of a Xenomorph Easter egg skull in the Predator spaceship.
That skull is not the only Alien connection (Well Aliens if we are to be accurate) as the movie sports Bill Paxton being all Bill Paxtony. In fact, the supporting cast is full of win. We have Gary Busey for God’s sake.
Round out some neat new weapons, fan service (in the form of Playboy Playmate and adult film star Teri Weigel), hard R violence, and some really well staged action scenes. Predator 2 is a great (If decidedly “B” movie) in a lot of different disciplines and genres.
The Bad: Strangely, the one thing critics praised when Predator 2 was released was the performance of its lead Danny Glover. Yeah, let’s talk about this. Glover is not bad in the film per se… he is simply and utterly miscast. A middle-aged, out of shape I am too old for this shit cop (think Lethal Weapon… no seriously watch Predator 2 and try not to think of Lethal Weapon). Glover is simply the wrong character and/or actor.
I understand that replacing Schwarzenegger with, say, Dolph Lundgren would have been lazy and very well may not have worked out. I like the idea in theory of the Predator being hunted by an everyman. But Danny Glover seems just a bridge too far. The movie does itself no favors by having Glover actually fight the Predator on rooftops and ledges ect instead on perhaps coming up with a way of Glover to say outsmart the beast.
The Ugly: Jamaican Voodoo gangs. Word of God is that the studio was worried that the audience, being made up of stupid Americans, would not know what Rastafarianism is. So they changed it to Voodoo. Haitian Voodoo, to be more exact. They changed nothing else about the gang. So what we have is a clearly Jamaican Rastafarian gang inexplicitly doing Voodoo in a display that would embarrass the Sons of Samedi.
In Conclusion: Predator 2 is one of the best experiences you can have with film nostalgia. There is nothing more delightful than seeing a film thirty years later and enjoying it a lot more than you did the first time around. Time has been kind to Predator 2. In the end, it is a fun and silly action film.