Here’s the good news: casting a registered sex offender in his film is not the worst thing about Shane Black’s The Predator. And, yes, that is also the bad news.
I was prepared to write about this film in the context of the complicated news cycle that swirled around it following 20th Century Fox cutting an entire scene featuring the actor Steven Wilder Striegel. Striegel is a friend of Black’s who has appeared in small roles a number of his films, including Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys. He also served jail time in 2010 for attempting to seduce a 14-year-old girl into bed via the internet and was registered as a sex offender, a fact Olivia Munn notified Fox about when she found out last month, after which the company swiftly cut Striegel’s scene. Those involved gave their statements, they erased the offending material and hoped they could move on. I was optimistic. I love the Predator movies. The trailers for this one looked great. Yes, there is this problematic element to it, I might have written, but let me explain why it’s worth your time.
But I don’t have to do that now. The Predator is probably not worth your time, and I’m surprised actors of the caliber of Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, and Boyd Holbrook even thought it was worth their time. On a surface level, the script makes a meager amount of sense, as long as you just shut up and don’t think about the plot too much. None of the characters are particularly interesting, and some are downright offensive. (More on that in a bit.) To top it all off, the digital effects, which this film relies heavily on, look only slightly better than a well-constructed video game.
A brief plot overview, though I am loathe to revisit it, goes something like this: Quinn McKenna (Holbrook) is a military sniper on some drug cartel mission, tasked with taking out a high-powered kingpin meeting with his fellow bad hombres in the jungle. The mission goes awry when a spaceship crash-lands in the trees behind them, loosing a desperate Predator, who seems to have been running from some bigger, badder force. Fortunately, some Men in Black types swoop in and collect the specimen, bringing it to a secret laboratory, and spiriting McKenna off to a “reeducation facility” where they’ll no doubt do what they can to erase all memories of his close encounter. Crafty McKenna, though, has shipped some of the Predator’s armor back home to his estranged wife (Yvonne Strahovski) and son (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the autism spectrum. (“Oh no,” I whispered when this was revealed, and, dear reader, I was right to be afraid.)
The Men in Black types (a group that includes Sterling K. Brown and… Jake Busey?) invite plucky girl scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) onboard to examine the alien specimen. Bracket is a whip-smart everything-ologist who “basically wrote the book on evolutionary biology.” (Not to contribute to the diminishing of women’s accomplishments or anything but didn’t… Charles Darwin… do that? Anyway.) The Predator gets loose and Bracket has to escape it by taking off her clothes and crouching in a decontamination stall. (Someone find Olivia Munn a better agent. Please. I’m begging.)