NORMALLY in this loosely connected series of my fave moments, I pick out a short clip or scene here or there from a film or tv show.
But I have watched Predator all the way through twice recently (one night after another, thanks to some bizarre Sky One scheduling) and to pick one moment out from such a sci-fi masterwork would be doing the film a disservice.
Put simply, this is a perfect film – acting, direction, script, casting – you name it. And even though it is 22 years old now, yes, read that again, 22 YEARS old, it still works like a beautifully crafted Swiss watch made by pixies out of gold and precious metals.
To start with Arnold, he was at the peak of his powers here and produces some of his best work as Dutch. Check this out if you don’t believe me.
Brilliant! But he also took the genius decision to change the film’s focus from him against the Predator to include a team of bad-ass commandos as well, and while we know what he brings physically to any role, the camaraderie among them is obvious and something Arnold seems to genuinely enjoy.
Wisely, director John McTiernan (more on his later) gives all of this perfectly cast team moments to shine – Blain (Jesse Ventura) with Old Painless and ‘I ain’t got time to bleed’, Billy with his nose for trouble and ‘there’s something out there and it ain’t no man’, Poncho asking if Blain had time to duck, Hawkins’ terrible jokes – I could go on, but the end result is when they die, we care about them.
The stories about the set have become legend too – all the actors working out to have the biggest arms, bodyguards being hired for Sonny Landham (Billy), to protect the rest of the cast from him, Shane Black (Hawkins) who had already written Lethal Weapon, using his spare time to write The Last Boy Scout. Not bad!
Duke especially brings gravitas and emotion to the whisper-voiced Mac, particularly when he mourns the fallen Blain, and Weathers, as in Rocky, shows why he is one of the top action sidekicks of all time.
They share a line, where Mac threatens to ‘bleed him, real quiet’ that still gives me chills.
And then there is the Predator. Against Arnie and his team, there was a risk the baddie could have looked a bit lame (indeed, this was why Jean-Claude Van Damme left the film after a few days – he was just too small).
No danger of that with Kevin acting through the genius Stan Winston’s wonderfully designed creature. A wonderful screen monster, albeit one whose face looks like angry women’s lady bits.
And finally, holding it all together was director McTiernan, amazingly in only his second film. He doesn’t miss a beat throughout and as his next film – Die Hard (also perfect and one of my favourite films too) – showed, it was no fluke.
All in all, this is about as complete an example of catching lightning in a bottle as you can get, from first minute to last.
Inevitably, there’s talk of a remake and the Predator has also fallen soooo far from its lofty beginnings (Predator 2 held up to scrutiny, but any more Aliens vs Predator anyone? Didn’t think so.)
For me, they can make as many films as they like, but there’s only one Predator and this is it.
And I got all the way through without saying “GED TO DA CHOPPAH!!!”. Ah hell.