Kevin: If there was any doubt that 1987 was one of the best years ever for classic action films, how about the fact that Tough Guy Digest had barely gotten done celebrating the unofficial 30th anniversary of “Lethal Weapon” last week before we realized that “Predator” also came out on this day three decades ago (joining “The Untouchables,” “RoboCop,” “The Running Man,” and, uh, “Over the Top” that year):
CJ and I saw it again on the big screen last night at the Alamo Drafthouse among a packed house, and one takeaway I had was that it has aged much better than many films from that era (there is virtually nothing that dates the movie to the 1980’s, and even references to operations in Libya and Afghanistan could be from modern day, unfortunately). But if there is one reason why the film has become an even more beloved and oft-quoted (“Get to the choppa’!,” “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” “Stick around!,” “I ‘aint got time to bleed”) pop cultural touchstone over the decades, it’s because few action movie ensembles before or since have been able to top the badass macho camaraderie of Dutch and his team of grizzled warriors.
That’s why today we are celebrating “Predator’s” birthday with our original write-up (along with some additional thoughts from CJ and myself) on the film’s most unique touch, the end credits curtain call which gave each cast member one last time to shine.
(Originally posted Dec. 3, 2016)
Kevin: Since its release in 1987, the “Rambo”/“Alien” mashup “Predator” has spawned one direct sequel (“Predator 2”), two “Alien vs. Predator” spin-offs, and one remake-sequel hybrid (“Predators”). While hopes are high for the upcoming Shane Black-directed “The Predator,” no one has yet been able to recapture the magic of the original for one simple reason: what made “Predator” an action Hall of Famer is not the monster, but the All-Star team of grizzled macho mercenaries this movie pits against the title creature.
From the moment Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers flex their biceps in an impromptu arm wrestling match …
… to the classic helicopter intro of the rest of the squad, including Jesse “Sexual Tyrannosaurus” Ventura, it’s clear we are in the presence of the kind of testosterone-fueled, and probably steroid-injected, badasses who would soon become a rarity as the ‘90s loomed. Just to prove the point, the equivalent military tough guy role in the 2010 “Predators” was played by ADRIEN FUCKING BRODY!
In fact if there is one mark against “Predator,” it’s that Dutch and his team are so individually awesome and likable that you hate to see them all get killed (that’s why I usually turn the movie off at the hour mark). I think the filmmakers realized this, which is why “Predator” has one of the more unusual end credits scene in any action movie. Rather than just freeze-frame a shot from the movie with the actor’s name at the bottom, the film instead has the entire cast perform almost a curtain call by looking straight at the camera and giving the audience a little acknowledgement, as if they realize we need to leave on a happy note:
In order we get:
- Richard Chaves as Poncho, giving us a little wink. The least-remembered member of the team even though he makes it longer than anyone except Arnold.
- Future “Lethal Weapon”/“Last Boy Scout” writer and “The Predator” director Shane Black as Hawkins, having a nice chuckle at us catching him reading his “Sgt. Rock” comic. Incidentally, Arnold was attached to a planned feature film version of “Sgt. Rock” at one time.
- Sonny Landham as Billy, demonstrating his laugh that was so memorable the Predator ripped it off for himself at the end. Landham is also one of three future politicians in this credits sequence along with Arnold and Jesse.
- Speaking of which, Jesse Ventura as Blaine, spitting out his patented tobacco and giving the same smirk he gave anyone who suggested that maybe suing the widow of Chris Kyle was a tad unnecessary.
- Bill Duke as Mac, being nice enough to offer us a swig from his flask, but then rather rudely drinking it all himself before we have a chance to respond.
- Some lady, who cares.
- Carl Weathers, grabbing a machine gun that someone tossed off camera, maybe to demonstrate that he has both arms again.
- Arnold as Dutch, weirdly the only member of the team whose credit shot is from a scene in the movie. Could this be because Dutch is still alive and the rest of the guys are making sexist jokes and mowing down innocent forests with machine guns in Heaven? I’d like to think so.
I don’t know why they did this, but either way I always feel better that no matter what gruesome stuff happens to my favorite band of right-wing killing machines over the course of the film, I’ll get to see them one more time and give them a nod before we fade to black. Thanks, makers of “Predator.”
CJ: Having watched the movie again last night, there are a couple of things I noted that I think get overlooked when discussing why this movie works so well:
1) The Music: If I had to pick a movie that was the opposite of “Daredevil” in terms of musical choices, it would be “Predator.” While “Daredevil” and many other movies like to build their stories around lots of horrible music, “Predator” gives you one song with “Long Tall Sally.” And that’s all you need – in fact I’m playing it right now as I write this. It plays as the chopper is heading into the jungle and we get our intros to everyone on the team, and it sets the tone perfectly; it’s a fun party song and indicates that these guys are amped to get into the jungle and shoot up some baddies:
(Side note: Is being a “sexual Tyrannosaurus” supposed to be a good thing? They have really short arms, so this seems like a hindrance in the bedroom, but I guess ask CeeLo about that.)
In addition, the musical score also hits the perfect beats as well. It gives you the right pitchy screams just when it needs to freak you out, but also moves it along with some bassy numbers as the boys run through the jungle. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention how ominous it can be as well, specifically at the end after Dutch has killed the Predator and the chopper is heading off into the sunset. Right as the movie ends and the audience should be thinking “Another win for Dutch, outside of everyone he cares about having died!,” the music plays us off much more mournfully than the typical “rah-rah” action film normally would.
2) Sonny Landham’s Laugh: Early in the movie Billy is treated to one of Hawkins’ patented sex jokes, and after he finally gets a laugh we also see that the Predator is watching and recording it. We totally forget about this until the end when Dutch thinks he’s got the upper hand and the Predator unleashes one final trick: setting off the bomb on his arm. If this wasn’t enough, the Predator chooses to unleash Billy’s scream, and I swear that that laugh now haunts my nightmares and will be what I hear on my deathbed. The Joker seems to have a stranglehold on best evil maniacal laugh, but go watch the final few minutes of “Predator.” Who would have thought that a laugh that started off as “Haha, oral sex!” would morph into something that would strike you to your very core?
Kevin: All I know is that if I was Arnold I would have stomped the Predator’s face as soon as he started pushing buttons on his arm, I wouldn’t just stand there and see where this was all going. I’ll also add that while normally a movie as good as “Predator” would be enough in and of itself, we should also never forget that if it were not for this film then we very well may not have gotten “Die Hard” (since producer Joel Silver chose “Predator” director John McTiernan to helm that the next year) or “Action Jackson” (since Carl Weathers pitched Silver the idea on the “Predator” set and recruited Bill Duke and Sonny Landham to make appearances). That is quite a lasting legacy right there.