Though his films have been fizzers of late, back in the late 80’s/early 90’s John McTiernan was ‘THE MAN’ when it came to Hollywood action movies whether they be the terrorist flick to inspire all others with “Die Hard” to the complex sub thriller “The Hunt for Red October”, McTiernan churned out a bunch of movies which make the current action crop like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Vertical Limit” look like the crap they are in comparison. The first “Predator” is amongst those classics and certainly one of the best films Schwarzenegger has ever made.
What makes it work is the simplicity of the setup and the cleverness of its execution. First you take a bunch of men macho to the point of arrogance (and who make the guys who populate the average Michael Bay film seem like kittens in comparison) who are dumped into an exotic jungle setting believing nothing and no-one can take them on, only to come face to face with a creature who renders all their muscle-flexing and big guns basically useless. Its a true cat-and-mouse game, a “Survivor” without the cash where we get a visceral thrill out of watching these mean ass sons of bitches whom we actually come to like getting knocked off one-by-one. Its up to Arnie, the only one with the cunning in the group to face off with the creature mano-e-mano in a series of well thought out and tense scenes.
The script is basically cobbled together, little more than a treatment really but that’s one of the reasons why it works. There’s no bullshit soul searching or attempt to give it a deeper meaning, its truly a pure action/suspense movie full of great sequences that are put together very cleverly and are all pulled off quite well. The action uses some FX to enhance rather than as a crux, which is why a lot of them still work many years later. Each of the characters is distinctive and watchable, whilst the pace moves at breakneck speed and never once stops or slows down except in maybe the first half hour setup scenes. This is also one of Arnie’s best performances because not only is the role perfect for him, but he actually plays it quite naturally – unlike later films where he tries too hard.
One big plus is the jungle setting which really helps add to the atmosphere of isolation and danger – this also truly feels like a proper jungle setting with thick foliage, wet heat and life crawling all over – its one of the most convincing locations you’ll ever see in an action film. As this was also the days before PC came in the action is quite bloody but it totally suits the movie. The music is strong, the sense of suspense drawn out well and the FX are very impressive. A true gritty action classic that holds up just as strongly today, all up a great movie and personally one of my fave films of all time.