Predator (1987) — A valid case for getting to the choppa

“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Justin’s rating: Weird Al Rambo flashbacks

Justin’s review: “If it bleeds, we can kill eeet.” Impressive-sounding words, as long as they’re coming from the determined lips of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not as impressive, however, when my college roommate Bob would use that line in just about any circumstance. I mean, bless the boy for wanting to appear geek chic and trying to work appropriate movie quotes into normal conversations, but he just had no sense of timing. Plus, he’d only really ever use that one line, trying to mimic Schwarzenegger but sounding like Kermit with a head cold.

ME: Oh, hey, I got that cute girl’s phone number from class today!
LANCE: The one without the hair? Cool!
BOB: If it bleeds, we can kill eeet.
LANCE AND I: Um. Yeah.

Man, I miss Bob.

Predator is a landmark film, if nothing else than to see not one, but two future governors of actual states use gigantic weapons to blow away leaves and very small trees. This particular scene comes when the elusive and wily Predator (played by Bob Dole) is taunting a group of “rescue” soldiers by, I don’t know, talking smack about their mommas. Our troopers ain’t gonna stand for that, and even though they can’t see their enemy, Dutch (Gov. Schwarzenegger) and Blain (Gov. Jessie Ventura) proceed to personally decimate a rainforest with a five-trillion-rounds-per-second minigun and some handy grenades. Yes, this is the type of movie that will give the environmentalists massive aneurysms.

Oh, lots of pointless squabble has been wasted on debating which is better: Aliens or Predator. Personally, I’m an Aliens man, as they’re my favored imaginary space boogeyman of choice, but the Predator is not without its quaint charms. When it comes to the films, there are some striking similarities between the two worlds: both have rough-and-tough soldiers hunting and then being hunted by space monsters, both have a weakling female who is the only surviving witness to what happened before, both have a betrayer among the group, and both whittle down their effective combat cast to just one person, who must then go mano-a-mano with big ugly himself.

Predator begins in the deep dark jungles of, say, some random country in South America. He-Of-The-Bulging-Jaw leads his team into enemy territory (the outskirts of Honolulu) so they can wander around, get increasingly freaked out when they find people with no skin hanging from trees, and mask their terror in the traditional male way of biting out horrible one-liners. Make no mistake, this is a Man Movie from start to end, full of arm wrestling, tobacco-chewing, and terrifically bad sexual jokes told by a soldier who has those enormously large ’80s glasses that made me wonder if the army had a recruiting booth in LensCrafters.

This movie is so manly, in fact, that Jessie Ventura is able to growl out the line, “I ain’t got time to bleed” and actually make it sound like a reasonable proposition instead of the stupidest quote in recorded history. About the closest that any of these men — and they ARE men, rugged, handsome, bulging with muscle groups that have never vacationed near my body — come to expressing emotions is when one of their fellow soldiers die, and they sort of have an impromptu funeral in the jungle. A couple minutes of long faces, a statement about him being a true soldier’s soldier, and that’s about it. They ain’t got time for Kleenexes either. Death’s a-coming.

While the soldier interaction and their fancy for killing the sheer crap out of anything — including at one point, a pig — is great, the actual Predator leaves a bit to be desired in my sensitive palate. Sure, he’s got a nifty invisibility trick that works just fine except that everyone can clearly see where he is when he moves, but the dude doesn’t really do much other than stalk the soldiers and breathe heavily.

Maybe it was the coolest thing in the ’80s to show infra-red from the Predator’s point of view, but wow, is it overdone here. The steak has gone from juicy red to charred black, and there’s no going back for seconds. Infra-red is not a load of fun to watch, and since it gives pretty much zero depth perception, I’m really surprised the Predator wasn’t running into more gulches and smacking into trees in his hot pursuit. I’m so happy I got to use the word “gulches” there, it’s just a rare opportunity.

In short, this movie has more than passable moments, but I actually found the Arnold-less sequel to be a lot more enjoyable, probably because it combined both the Predator AND voodoo, and aside from Weekend At Bernie’s 2, where else can you get that?

Kyle’s rating: Doesn’t anyone get the three dots are the “therefore” symbol?!? The Predator is a logic man!

Kyle’s review: Man, I just have to step in when anyone dogs on Predator, because it was one of the earliest violent movies I saw in a movie theater and it BLEW MY MIND! Awesome! Imagine being eight years old and seeing Jessie Ventura get a huge bloody hole blown through his torso. You know it! Yet today, I have no social problems or strange physical quirks of any kind. Maybe ultra-violence is sort of like a healing balm. Pretty crazy, eh?

Predator works so well because, at least in my opinion, it manages that extraordinarily difficult task of making you care about all the people involved, even the 10 or 12 who are basically standing around with big existential targets on their back, waiting to be blown up and have their skulls removed and turned into kitschy body decorations. I wonder why that fad never caught on? Yep, even though I can’t be bothered to go look up individual character names at this moment, I can tell you that I remember Dutch (the man!) and Billy and that guy with the big gun and that guy with the glasses and that guy who I think was in one of the Aliens movies or something, or not, and then some other guy who was in fatigues and had a big gun.

That last sentence kind of shot my review in the foot, but believe me: once I flip this movie on and realize within a split second what it is, I’m like “yea, that guy who is obsessed with shaving is so cool and tragic! I love it!” Even the girl, who I think was in Predator 2 (which also blew my mind when I saw that one) was awesome. And only The Arnold could conceivably survive a nuclear explosion. Man, he’s good.

Predator is beyond good. It’s really well done for an ’80s sci-fi movie (essentially a slasher in the woods tale), and that Predator costume was so good I really believed that there were Predators out there, even after extensive psycho-theraphy. They’re real, dammit! *bzzzt* Okay, I’m better. I’m just sad that I had to wait for many, many years to actually get a quality Predator action figure, though I’d lock myself in my room and pretend I was a kid again just to kick some GI Joe butt with my plastic missile-firing Predator figure. Immaturity is good!

Justin is right: The troops from Aliens are far more memorable and likeable, just because you’d want to hang around with those guys (no, really). But this elite bunch is pretty awesome as well, which makes it a double kick-in-the-nethers when it seems like they’re expendable to the Washington brass. Hey, what gives, elected officials? No wonder Arnold rode the backlash into office!

Predator is well worth your time, especially if you can handle ultra-violence and three Civil War movies’ worth of fired bullets. Seriously, how do these guys carry around this much ammo? Video game infinite ammo, anyone? But if nothing else, watch this so you’ll understand why I greet so many of my male friends with a firm handshake followed by 30 seconds of freestyle arm-wrestling. You’re the man, now, Dutch!

Shalen’s rating: Three out of four chelicera-like mouthparts.

Shalen’s review: This is one of the several movies featured on this site that I have owned for some time and watched repeatedly. And it will come as no surprise to those reading my previous review of Eight Legged Freaks that I was not exactly rooting for the human characters here, although it’s always nice to see a movie with as many pairs of straining biceps as this one has. Seriously, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger had to be protectively buffered from the other actors so his arm muscles wouldn’t leap out and attack on their own. Scary. Especially with the bulging veins, one certainly gets the impression that the future governor was still in the “inhaled everything there was to inhale” phase of his career.

Given the two previous reviews, I see no reason to go into the plot again here. Since ogling the muscle development on Schwarzennegger, Ventura, and Carl Weathers is one of the main reasons to watch this movie, the order of character elimination won’t come as much of a surprise. Nor does it really matter. The character development isn’t bad for this sort of film — yards beyond Alien vs. Predator, for example — but it’s not so in-depth as to make us worry tremendously about these special forces-type mercenaries who are so very special that we can actually hear every step they take, dry twigs snapping like bullets even though we’re supposedly in a tropical jungle. They are so subtle, so deadly silent, that when they take out a guerrilla base, there are explosions that actually clear the canopy and reach the sky. And of course there is the minigun, that weapon most beloved of covert operatives everywhere. Heh heh. Shalen likes the minigun. There’s one in Terminator 2 also.*

I’m impressed by how well the creature makeup holds up when we finally do get to see the Predator (though I don’t believe that word is ever used in the film itself). It’s nice to remember that once upon a time, Hollywood used to hire giant actors when they wanted a giant creature instead of filming them from funny camera angles and using bad CGI. And it’s a shame Kevin Peter Hall died from complications of AIDS** a few short years after this film was made, because he does manage to give life to the costume beyond the traditional “stomp stomp, growl growl” one comes to expect from the antagonist in a critter flick. Perhaps it was just me, but I do think you can see a difference between Hall’s more graceful Predator and the lumbering beastie of the second film.

This film is even more fun if you speak some Spanish, so you can understand Dillon when he asks the woman Anna “Te sientes bien?”*** after he clocks her in the head with a gun butt. In fact, I’ve been known to turn on the Spanish track and watch the whole film in that language, although the dirty jokes are then rendered into less objectionable ones that make no sense at all. I’m curious as to what they did with Predator 2, when the F-word is used about every five seconds.

In any case, this film was and is a classic of the critter genre, and it gains in my book by not requiring bouncing female hypertrophy to keep the audience’s attention. If you’ve been thinking that all “people get eaten in the jungle” movies are like Anaconda, then please, please, see this one. You won’t be sorry.

*We understand you have to be really huge to even pick it up, let alone fire it loaded with blanks (according to the features on our T2 DVD). Supposedly not even Schwarzennegger could fire one loaded with live ammo, because it would be like having a football player stand on your chest while you try to do situps.

**He got it from a blood transfusion.

***”Do you feel well?” This strikes us as right up there with “I’ve been shot!” in terms of extremely rhetorical remarks.

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