'Predator': THR's 1987 Review

Predator (1987) - Still -Photofest-H 2017
20th Century Fox/Photofest
Action buffs can unpack their flak jackets and dig in for this explosive, big-barrel production.

On June 12, 1987, John McTiernan's Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of a special forces team that's dropped into the jungle on a rescue mission and comes face to face with an alien hunter who makes trophies out of men's spinal columns, hit theaters. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger and his troops tote around a six-barrel Gatling gun in Predator, indicative of the firepower in this 20th Century Fox release.

Action buffs can unpack their flak jackets and dig in for this explosive, big-barrel production. Box-office prospects seem excellent for this well-made, old-style assault movie.

Schwarzenegger plays a cigar-chomping combat leader whose crack unit performs last-ditch rescue missions in world hotspots. They’re 'coptered down behind guerrilla lines in Latin America to rescue “allies.” Structurally, Predator is a classic behind-enemy-lines/buddy movies. Nothing much new, just well done. The troops, all types typical of the genre, are, nevertheless, a well-developed, individually identifiable team. Certainly part of the strength of this high-artillery movie, in addition to Schwarzenegger’s fearless presence, is the unit’s camaraderie and expertise. While the dialogue is occasionally leaden, scriptwriters Jim Thomas and John Thomas have shelled out some sharp, lethal lines — Schwarzenegger, as usual, is at his best delivering dry-humored salvos.

Visually, Predator is a full-assault experience. Director John McTiernan mixes his range of shots with fast precision and full-blast effect. Perhaps Predator’s best asset is the expressive, kinetic photography of Donald McAlpine. His frame is always full, multihued and richly composed — its it no mere shooting of the jungle.

Less satisfying, however, is Schwarzenegger’s supernatural foe. While it makes sense for the massive Schwarzenegger to be pitted against a supernatural beast — mere tough guys and villains seem overmatched — Predator loses a lot of wallop because of the special-effects nature of the savage other-world predator. An amorphous, two-dimensional, heat-seeking killer, it zaps Schwarzenegger’s buddies one by one. Although gory, these snipings are considerably less powerful and less involving than the full-blazing soldier shootouts, as well as Schwarzenegger’s eventual one-on-one with a more earthy manifestation of the monster.

Predator’s final scenes, with a mud-coated, primeval-looking Schwarzenegger locked in battle against the lizard, knight-like monster, are terrific — two big guys going at it in the mud. Credit creature designer Stan Winston (Aliens) for the colossal and formidable predator. Other technical credits, including a brassy and relentlessly percussive score by Alan Silvestri, are superior.

Deserving special medals for their strong supporting roles are Bill Duke as a hardened-to-the-cracking-point combat vet, Carl Weathers as Schwarzenegger’s CIA-man-turned-best-buddy, and Richard Chaves as the unit’s savvy point man. — Duane Byrge, first published on June 10, 1987

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