ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 22, 1990
By Steve Newton
Horror movies spawn more sequels than any other film genre, and for the most part the sequels pale in comparison to the original. There are exceptions, though. James Cameron’s Aliens took a healthy shot at renewing the terror of Ridley Scott’s Alien; film buffs such as fear auteur Clive Barker point back to 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein as the first successful sequel. But rarely does a sequel outdo its predecessor in every way.
Predator 2 is one of that rare breed.
The original Predator starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a soldier in Central America who comes up against an alien hunter with a taste for human quarry. The best thing about John (Die Hard) McTiernan’s 1988 jungle actioner was definitely not the thespian talents of Arnie, nor those of his non-actor co-stars Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. It was the super make-up and special-effects of the titular creature–things like its heat-sensitive field of vision and the cool way it camouflaged itself before coming in for the kill.
All the great FX of the first film have become even better for Predator 2, and in place of Schwarzie’s one-note macho presence we’ve got stars who can actually act, namely Danny Glover and Gary Busey. And the supporting cast of actor/musician Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Robert Davi, and genre fave Bill Paxton (Aliens, Near Dark) delivers as well.
Under the direction of Aussie Stephen Hopkins–who helmed A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and filmed all the action sequences as second-unit director on Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander–the pieces come together for a horror/sci-fi gem that will please most action-oriented fans.
Like the first Predator, Predator 2 takes place in a jungle of sorts–the urban jungle of 1997 L.A., where drug gangs rule the grimy streets and lethal shoot-outs with the cops are common. Glover plays Detective-Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, an effective but volatile crime-stopper who comes up against Federal Agent Peter Keyes (Busey) while on the trail of voodoo-practicing Jamaican pushers.
It seems that a lot of these dreadlocked baddies have been found skinned and gutted and hanging from ceilings like slaughtered deer–courtesy of the Predator and his arsenal of built-in weapons.
When a number of Harrigan’s fellow officers end up the same way, his personal vendetta leads him on a collision course with both the Predator (played by seven-feet-two-inch Kevin Peter Hall) and Keyes, who’s been tracking the creature for years and is obsessed with taking it alive. The ensuing maelstrom of gory violence teeters on the brink of overkill, but Glover’s steady performance is the beacon that keeps Predator 2 from sinking.