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Predator
1987 - R - 107 Mins.
Director: John McTiernan
Written By: Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham
Review by: John Ulmer
   
'Predator' it is one of the most thrilling action-adventure-sci-fi's ever made. Produced in the era of 'Alien' knock-offs, the movie is fresh, unique, charismatic, brutal, original, funny, thrilling, action-packed and convincing. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch Schaefer, a Military commando sent into the heart of South America on a rescue mission, only to encounter a deadly alien species that "hunts for pleasure."

'Predator', although often overlooked by most critics, is possibly Arnold's most brilliant and well-constructed movie ever. It rivals 'The Terminator' as one of his most exciting and action-packed, but it is also well-crafted. In Predator, Arnold proves he can act -- something he would later embellish upon in Paul Verhoeven's 'Total Recall'.

What ultimately makes 'Predator' so great is the slow revealing of the beast, and the special creature effects used to make us believe that thing is right in front of Arnold, and it's alive! This can be credited to Stan Winston and James Cameron. On the DVD extra, Winston recalled that he was sketching possible creature descriptions for the title character when Cameron turned to him and said, "I've always wanted to see a creature with mandibles." So Winston added a pair and voila -- the Predator was born.

Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally hired to play the alien, and was so hot inside the suit that he quit. It was at that point that McTiernan hired renowned creature effects expert Stan Winston ('The Terminator', 'Aliens') to construct a far more realistic, far more scary beast for the film. After all, the creature was the real star.

Winston delivered, and when the Predator finally reveals itself in full at the end of the film, I was not only excited and thrilled, but downright scared. Winston aimed to create a creature that was taller than the Austrian Oak, and for this he turned to Kevin Peter Hall (Bigfoot in 'Harry and the Hendersons'), who has a brief cameo in the film as a helicopter pilot, and who passed away shortly after the release of 'Predator 2'. Hall was almost seven feet tall at the time of his death.

There are so many reasons that 'Predator' works beautifully as a whole, and one of my favorites is the way that the entire film is small-scaled and sophisticated. There's the great setup of the co-stars in the beginning; the spine-tingling discovery of a dead crew in the South American jungle; and finally, the man-vs.-nature struggle between Schwarzenegger and the Predator.

The whole Predator hunting spree is never actually explained, which is smart on the film's behalf. There are no lengthy monologues about why the Predator is doing this. We are left to assume that his skull craving is actually a sport of some kind; the Predator's interests in collecting human skulls as trophies almost seems satanic, until we realize that hunters do the same thing with animals such as deer. To the Predator species, man is yet another beast to be hunted.

The final showdown between man and Predator is one of the finest in cinema history -- sure, the very, very end is a little far-fetched, but by that point, who cares? We're already too caught up in the movie to even notice.

The film was directed by John McTiernan ('Die Hard'), Filmed a year prior to his 1988 mega-hit, this fairly low-budget sci-fi/horror shocker was shot on location in South America, giving the film a truly wonderful and gripping backdrop, oozing with moisture and foliage. We feel as if we are really there, staring into the eyes of the Predator, and he is smiling back at us.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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