Kevin: November 1990, Houston, TX. A young Kevin and his best friend Rich arrive at the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon to see the highly anticipated (by them anyway) “Predator 2.” But when they arrive at the ticket booth, they are told that they are too young to see an R-rated movie. Undeterred, they buy tickets for another film and plan to sneak into “Predator 2,” but despite Kevin’s insistence that they play video games until the movie starts and then sneak in under cover of darkness, Rich stupidly insists on getting their seats immediately. Of course they were discovered and ejected from the theater, which is how they ended up seeing the subject of today’s Team Tag: “Three Men and a Little Lady.”
Nah just kidding, we actually just sat through the first half of that and bailed once we decided that playing “Street Fighter” in the lobby until our parents showed up would be time better spent. Instead I had to wait until the next year when “Predator 2” was on home video before I could finally check it out, and to say it was not worth the wait was an understatement. But thanks to a recent screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, I was finally able to get the theatrical “Predator 2” experience that I was denied by that pimply faced fascist in the ticket booth.
So CJ you had never seen “Predator 2,” while I had not seen it in decades. Having watched it again it’s pretty much as I remembered, a good concept with a great cast that’s missing something in the execution. Of course the biggest thing missing, both in stature and charisma, is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was approached for the sequel but bowed out when the studio wouldn’t increase the budget or pay original director John McTiernan’s salary. Instead they got the director of “Nightmare on Elm Street 5,” and I just realized that between “Predator” and “Die Hard,” McTiernan had sequels to two of his movies come out in 1990 and both were directed by “Nightmare on Elm Street” alums. Since he also did “The Hunt for Red October,” I’m surprised they didn’t give the “Patriot Games” gig to the director of “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.”
Even without Arnold though, the overall hook of the film is solid, in that instead of repeating the same beats from the original by taking place in the literal jungle, the Predator is now attracted to the gang warfare of the urban jungle, aka the crime-ridden anarchy of “future” (1997) Los Angeles. It also has a stacked cast full of familiar faces, but that also points to the fact that any ‘80s-‘90s action movie starring Danny Glover, backed up by Bill Paxton, Gary Busey, Robert Davi, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Adam Baldwin among others, should have been a lot more memorable.
First let’s talk about Glover, who spends most of the movie in a perpetual state of anger that even his buddy Mel Gibson would worry about. For instance, early on he gets the standard speech by the deputy chief of police (Robert Davi) about how he disobeyed a direct order and he’s on thin ice, yada yada. You’d assume he’d be used to this by now, but after a quick three Mississippi he runs after Davi like a madman screaming “I’ll show you insubordinate you son of a bitch!,” and has to be held back like he’s on the “Jerry Springer Show.” Then he just yells “Oh fuck,” which as we see is pretty much his reaction to most situations. I think he ends almost all of his scenes with some version of “fuck yourself,” “fuck this shit,” or “son of a bitch.”
He also talks to himself A LOT in this, and not like quick asides under his breath. Like he’ll be looking at a photo of Busey’s mysterious federal officer at a bar and be all, “Who are you, you son of a bitch, and why are you in my city? Well you can be sure of one thing …” to the point where anyone sitting next to him would be quietly scooting their chairs away. CJ are we sure this isn’t some “A Beautiful Mind”-type thing where he has his own imaginary Paul Bettany character next to him at all times?
CJ: I like to think the self narration continues when he gets home. “Get me a turkey sandwich, pile on some tomato, lettuce, some mayo. Doctor says mayo is unhealthy, that fucking asshole.”
Kevin: Also you know how in most action movies the hero has an asshole captain who is constantly telling him to get off the case? Well Glover does have a captain, played by Kent McCord from “Adam-12,” but he’s actually nice and always standing up for Glover. Even when Glover tells the captain, “You’re cutting off my dick and shoving it up my ass,” he somehow manages to say it with zero animosity. But I guess they felt they still needed that trope, so instead they have Davi – who is dressed like some Latin American generalissimo – constantly ordering Glover and his captain to cooperate with the feds. Not sure why we needed that extra layer of bureaucracy.
Before one of these scenes we also see a computer file that says: “Violence prone, obsessive/compulsive personality, history of excessive physical force incidents, aggression level 40% above average.” For a second I thought it was describing one of the gang leaders, before I realized it was actually Glover. Also once again Hollywood had this idea that in the future people couldn’t just read text off a computer screen themselves, they would also need to have some woman’s voice reading it aloud as well.
CJ: So, all these negative things about Glover, but he’s still been promoted, right? Like, are they sitting around going “This is actually the best we got. Johnson just shot his ninth civilian this month!”
Kevin: Now one of the subplots in the film is the war between the Jamaican and Colombian gangs in L.A. which apparently attracts the Predator. Again, a good idea, but one that never gets much of a payoff. Also between this and “Marked for Death,” 1990 was a banner year for Jamaican actors playing drug-dealing criminals in 20th Century Fox movies.
I did like how Glover goes through all these hoops to meet with the head of the Jamaican gang to find out what he knows about why his people are getting killed, and the dude just throws some chicken bones on the ground and is all, “The blind man knows the true path because he is not distracted by sight” before walking off. If I was Glover I’d be all, “Yeah that was great, thanks, you were a fountain of information pal.”
CJ: Here’s my thing with the Predator. He gets around undetected, strikes, leaves people strung up, and uses all kinds of cool gadgetry. In addition, he is taking out drug dealers, not regular Joes. So, isn’t he just a more violent Batman? Why are we pissed at this guy? He’s doing the work for us! If he wants a couple skulls, I say it’s a small price to pay to keep the streets clean!
Kevin: Yeah that’s a good point that the Predator is mainly killing bad guys in this, and in fact Glover’s fellow cop Ruben Blades jokes that they should give him a job. I could see an even better version where the Predator and Glover put aside their differences and join forces like Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in “L.A. Confidential.” Hell maybe the Predator goes into the Police Academy, and maybe he and Glover become roommates, or retire and open up their own sports bar. All I’m saying is that there were a lot of great ideas left on the table.
Speaking of great ideas that don’t really go anywhere, we also have Gary Busey and his covert government team, who are so covert that Bill Paxton can follow them anywhere and not be detected. I have a feeling the Busey role was in some shape or form intended for Arnold, and if he had returned the sequel would have focused on him leading this team and using his knowledge of the Predators to track them down when they come to Earth. And in retrospect that would have been a better movie, because between Glover and his crew, Busey’s covert team, and the two warring drug gangs, the Predator spends an awful lot of time in the first two acts on the sideline.
CJ: Let’s not forget that Arnold played a Special Forces leader in the original, so if this movie was following typical movies tropes he actually would have been a homeless person who jacks it inside subway cars. He would also be on drugs and getting his next fix when ol’ Preddy shows up. It’s actually not about Arnold trying to stop the Predator, but just trying to get revenge and then searching for his next fix.
Kevin: Maybe they realized the Predator was kind of getting lost in his own movie, which is why he suddenly attacks a subway car in a really confusing and badly shot sequence. I don’t know, if you’re gonna hire a horror director, I feel like the kills in “Predator 2” should have been a lot more gruesome and clever. Although we find out the Predator has kind of code of honor, as earlier he refused to kill a child, and here he spares Matria Conchita Alonso when he sees she is pregnant. I always assumed that was Bill Paxton’s baby, maybe because I didn’t want to picture her sleeping with Ruben Blades.
CJ: See? He wouldn’t kill the defenseless. BATMAN!
Kevin: Honestly though you could have just started the movie here since nothing that happens in the first two acts have any bearing on anything going forward. It’s not like the Predator was intentionally targeting Paxton and Alonso, they just coincidentally happen to be on a subway he is attacking. Glover and his team spend most of the movie focused on Busey and have no idea a giant alien is behind all the killings, which means we spend a lot of time in the first half of the movie with characters who have no idea what’s going on, and very little with the ones who do. Meanwhile the whole gang warfare subplot that was so important early on is completely forgotten about.
CJ: At least in this respect we have an accurate depiction of police work.
Kevin: Then the third act is mainly Glover chasing after the Predator, including a sequence with Glover climbing down a poll, while the Predator fixes his wounds in a bathroom, that feels like it goes on forever. I did like how Glover gets scared by some birds, and true to his character he talks to himself about why he hates birds for way longer than normal
Then he is briefly detained by Busey and his men, and with about 20 minutes left in the movie he finally gets the background on the Predator. Now Busey figured out the Predator could see our body heat and went through this whole process of trapping him in basically a giant meat locker, and has his team wear suits that will hide their body temperature. Which apparently would have worked great if not for the fact that he for some reason thought the Predator is also unable to see flashlights. Also the scene where he and his team get wiped out is another confusing one with a disappointing lack of gore. Actually the way a lot of action is edited in this makes it seem like they had to do some major cuts to get an R.
I also forgot that briefly notable ‘80s late night shock jock Morton Downey Jr. was in this, and for some reason I assumed he got killed in some brutal fashion, or at least punched in the nose a la Thornberg in “Die Hard,” but nope, he disappears as well.
Finally, Glover’s everyday pistol is a Desert Eagle, although a more accurate name would be a GIANT FUCKING HAND CANNON! Honestly CJ, with that kind of firepower, would Glover really need that scope on the top, because with a weapon like that are you really concerned about accuracy? http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Predator_2
CJ: I liked how everyone seems to have a scope on their gun, which leads me to assume they are terrible shots. Meaning when this rag-tag team of L.A.’s finest hits the streets, everyone runs out of the way because literally any shot could hit them.
Kevin: Not sure what else to say about this one, other than it’s one of those flicks from that era that is neither badass nor memorably bad, it just occupies a mushy middle ground. Let’s at least acknowledge that Glover’s character calls the Predator “Pussy Face,” which while funny also makes me wonder about the kind of women he has dated.