PREDATOR 2: No Stopping What Can’t Be Stopped, No Killing What Can’t Be Killed

Predator 2 (1990) – Directed by Stephen Hopkins – Starring Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, María Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Kevin Peter Hall, and Adam Baldwin.

PREDATOR 2 may just well be the most poorly conceived and executed sequel of the last three decades.

The largest problem with the film is that it can’t commit to the idea that the Predator isn’t a villain, and it doesn’t have enough brains to artfully work at the theme of moral complexity. The result is that we get the Predator slaughtering drug pushers, yet being tracked by our hero cop, Danny Glover. Are we supposed to root against the Predator when he’s killing hardcore killers and drug lords, and hanging the upside down? Because I’m totally rooting for him through the first part of the movie. Even when his actions are re-contextualized as “evil,” when he kills Glover’s partner, Danny Archuleta (Ruben Blades), that’s not enough for me to root against him – Archuleta was trespassing on the Predator’s turf, after all.

When Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Glover) goes all predator on the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall), and I’m conflicted. I like Harrigan, and I can understand his wanting revenge, but I like the Predator, too. (Even if in this movie he’s really more Punisher than Predator.) My emotional commitment is further conflicted by the presence of federal agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who’s a typical federal agent douchebag. In the same scene, then, I’m rooting for the Predator to take out Busey as I’m conflicted over the Predator/Glover fight.

There’s a real solid pot of conflicted morality here, but the film is too stupid to do anything with it.

Taking the film series out of the jungle, PREDATOR 2 takes the alien hunter persona and drops him into future, borderline post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. I’m not really sure if PREDATOR 2 is more properly called the worst Predator movie or the worst Lethal Weapon movie, but it’s a film that just isn’t very good. It’s main problem is that it oversells it’s attitude – Harrigan is too much the hothead cop, the violence is too cartoonishly executed, and Detective Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton) is, well, too much a Bill Paxton character from the ’80s.

Taking the Predator to the city isn’t, in and of itself, a bad idea, but it’s not executed very well, at all, as the filmmakers decide to push this film into the near future by setting it in 1997. They seem to want a war zone in Los Angeles so they can use a gang war as an excuse to have lots of minorities kill each other with lots of blood and bullets.

The opening sequence is simply preposterous. In the director commentary track on PREDATOR, John McTiernan talks about a scene in the jungle where Dutch’s group fires all of their ammo at where they think the Predator has gone. They decimate the forest, but don’t kill the Predator, and McTiernan relates that this scene was his way of silently protesting the fact that he’d been hired to make a film that revels in violence as pornography. The payoff for McTiernan is that all that gunfire kills nothing more than vegetation. It’s a wonderful nod to the shortcomings of guns, which is that you can’t kill what you can’t hit.

There’s none of that cleverness in PREDATOR 2, and the opening sequence of gang violence is a horrid welcome into this movie. It’s just a seemingly endless series of people firing semi-automatics just to show gunfire. After this, we’ve got to endure a whole bunch of formulaic “good cop who doesn’t play by the rules and thus gets called on the carpet” nonsense. In short order, we watch Ruben Blades and Bill Paxton get killed, and Maria Conchita Alonso get injured. Glover then runs into the feds, where Gary Busey gets killed.

Danny Glover gives the role everything he can and it’s everything the role asks for and more. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing as he (and the film) go overboard a few too many times.

PREDATOR 2 never creates a real threat for the Predator. Yeah, Harrigan kills him, but it’s an opportunistic kill instead of a battle of smarts and so it falls flat to me.

I do like what happens after the kill, when a group of Predators reveal themselves to Harrigan so they can take the body of their fallen comrade away. One of them tosses Harrigan an old 18th century firearm, which confirms for Harrigan (even though Gary Busey just told him this) that the Predators have been here before and will be here again.

It’ll just take a while for them to be back in their own movie.