The Predator (2 stars)

The Predator

Shane Black delivers a disappointingly dispensable addition to the sci-fi franchise

In 1987 Shane Black had two notable achievements. With the screenplay for Lethal Weapon he became one of the most lauded scriptwriters in Hollywood. As an actor alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Predator he died early – as did his career in front of the camera.

So it might feel like karma to Black that he eventually has a commanding role in the Predator franchise, as director and co-writer of its sixth instalment. Unfortunately, the man behind such cracking fare as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys is not at his best. Apparently striving to please both fanboys of this viscerally violent sci-fi template and a mainstream audience, he's in danger of losing both.

For the uninitiated, Predators are alien hunters who occasionally pop down to Earth for a little sport. This time a rogue alien is being pursued by his pals, with humans caught in the middle – and they, too, are fighting amongst themselves. It's quite chaotic in the playground.

The screenplay is so speed-dialled that it's difficult to tune into Black's ragtag heroes – military or mercenary, PTSD sufferer or rebel, it doesn't really matter, since few get to register beyond their annoying tics. The most engaging characters are a feisty female biologist (Olivia Munn) and an autistic boy (Room's Jacob Tremblay) who's better able to understand alien tech than the scientists.

Now and again there's a scene in which quips and action are in harmony. But, for the most part, Black's dialogue lacks its usual vim, and he directs with way too much abandon, rushing from one high-pitched set-piece to the next so breathlessly that there's no time to engage or get excited. And while there's plenty of gore, there's next to no tension, a key ingredient of the original package – it's a misjudgement that sums up an inappropriately breezy and surprisingly dispensable film.

General release from Thu 13 Sep.

The Predator

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 47min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Shane Black
  • Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Sterling K. Brown, Jacob Tremblay, Yvonne Strahovski, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane
  • UK release: 13 September 2018

A Predator comes to Earth, pursued by others of his kind, and humans are caught in the middle. Black’s reboot of the franchise lacks his usual vim, there are too many set pieces with no time to engage, and there’s next to no tension. It’s neither visceral enough for the fans, nor engaging enough for the rest of us.