After Arnold Schwarzenegger scored a pretty big hit with 'Predator' in 1987, a sequel was inevitable. Sadly, by 1990, Schwarzenegger was too busy being the biggest movie star in the world to return for a 'Predator' follow-up. Reasoning that the alien monster itself was the primary draw anyway, the producers and studio set about casting a replacement lead actor. I can only imagine how their search went. Was Sylvester Stallone available? No, he was off doing another 'Rocky'. How about Bruce Willis? Working on the next 'Die Hard'. Patrick Swayze? Tied up with a little picture called 'Ghost'. Mel Gibson? Too expensive. Wait a minute, how about the guy who played Mel Gibson's partner in the 'Lethal Weapon' movies? Bingo, now we've got something! Thus, Danny Glover landed his first and only action hero headlining role.
As you may recall, the Predator in 'Predator' was blown to bits at the end of the first movie. No worries, 'Predator 2' makes it clear that he was but one of a whole race of interstellar poachers who travel to Earth periodically in hunt for the most dangerous game of all, the human species. Drawn toward heat and conflict, the latest alien hunter eschews the jungles of Latin America for the urban jungle of Los Angeles. The sequel is set in the near-future year of 1997, and it is with no small amount of bemusement and irony that modern viewers may realize that we are further away from that year now than the movie was at its time of release.
In this crazy futuristic world, violent drug gangs have overrun L.A. and turned the city streets into a blazing chaotic war zone. Into this hellhole rides Mike Harrigan (Glover), an LAPD supercop who can take out an entire city block's worth of machine gun-toting gang bangers with just a single pistol and his own steely resolve. He doesn't even wear any body armor. Bulletproof vests are for pussies, apparently. It's certainly no coincidence that Harrigan's name sounds a lot like Harry Callahan. Looking on from afar, the Predator is impressed. He may have just found a worthy opponent to become the next prize in his trophy case.
The first 'Predator' was a lean, mean, and efficient B-movie. 'Predator 2' kicks things up a notch into full-blown comic book mode. The movie is filled with cartoonish stereotypes and violence, gratuitous nudity, and copious profanity in nearly every line of dialogue. Hack director Stephen Hopkins ('Blown Away', 'Lost in Space') is no auteur, but knows the value of slicing a major character in half at a key moment. The picture was made on a relatively modest budget for the day (this is no 'Terminator 2', let me tell you), but nonetheless serves up some convincing gore, another memorable creature from the Stan Winston Studio, and fairly impressive special effects that haven't dated too horribly for the most part. I wish I could say the same for the fashions and hair styles.
As far as macho action stars go, Danny Glover is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. He barely skirts by, and looks a little goofy in some of the more physical scenes. He also obviously skipped the course where they teach actors how to convincingly hold and wield firearms. Still, he and the producers deserve a little credit, if for nothing else than in consideration for the rarity of black actors toplining movies like this at the time.
Backing Glover up is actually an impressive supporting cast. Although the film stars no future United States governors, as the first 'Predator' did, Ruben Blades mounted a bid for the Presidency of Panama a few years later, and currently serves as that country's Minister of Tourism. He and Maria Conchita Alonso ('Moscow on the Hudson') are Harrigan's partners in the LAPD. Bill Paxton, seemingly still playing Chet from 'Weird Science', is the obnoxious new detective just transferred to the department. Robert Davi, fresh off his turn as the villain in 'Licence to Kill', is their captain. Gary Busey (before he went too off-the-wall bonkers) shows up as a douchebag federal agent who knows more than he lets on, and brings along a baby-faced Adam Baldwin as his henchman. And yes, that's really tabloid TV loudmouth Morton Downey, Jr. playing a thinly-fictionalized version of himself in the background. Every last one of them hams it up as far over the top as they felt they could get away with, and director Hopkins lets them get away with a lot.
Objectively speaking, 'Predator 2' is no great sci-fi masterpiece. It doesn't even stack up particularly well to the original 'Predator', which set pretty modest aims for itself in the first place. But it's plenty enjoyably dumb, and holds no pretensions of being anything more than it is. Sometimes, that's all you can ask.
Released during the sequel-heavy year of 1990 against competition such as 'Die Hard 2', 'Back to the Future Part III', 'Another 48 Hours', 'RoboCop 2', 'Young Guns II', 'Gremlins 2', and 'Rocky V', the picture failed to mark a niche for itself and floundered at the box office, effectively killing any chances for a 'Predator 3'. However, the final scene, in which we catch a glimpse of a skull of the monster from 'Alien' in the Predator's trophy room, captured the imaginations of fanboys enough to pave the way for the later 'Alien vs. Predator' crossover franchise. I'm not sure if that's something to be proud about, unfortunately.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Predator 2' comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The studio previously released the original 'Predator' on the format, as well as the follow-ups 'Alien vs. Predator' and 'Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem'.
In preparation for this review, I watched both of the 'Predator' movies on Blu-ray back-to-back. The first film is very grainy and soft, and sometimes looks downright terrible, but appears to be unmolested by excessive filtering or Noise Reduction. The sequel has the opposite problem. Its film elements seem to be cleaner and generally stronger, but the Blu-ray has had a bit too much digital processing. In all, I'd say they come out about even, just for different reasons. Neither will ever qualify as home theater eye candy.
Like the first movie, 'Predator 2' is also presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. At its best, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is fairly sharp and detailed. Colors are bright and strong (and there are a lot of flamboyant colors in the costume design). The contrast range is well represented, with good shadow detail. Some scenes are, in fact, very impressive.
The problem is that Digital Noise Reduction has obviously been applied, which sometimes leaves surfaces and facial features a little artificially smooth. Most of the film grain in bright scenes has been wiped away, even where it would be appropriate. When grain does appear, such as in dark scenes, it looks too noisy and freezes in place unnaturally. This isn't the worst application of DNR I've seen on Blu-ray, but the movie has lost some of its film-like textures.
Worse, the movie's climax and last scene exhibit severe color banding artifacts that really stand out and distract attention from the action on screen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is similarly mediocre, if not more so. Despite lossless encoding, the track has dull bass and weak gunshots, which are not good attributes for an action movie. The surround channels are also used only sparingly.
Alan Silvestri's droning score is presented with blasé fidelity. There's little sense of instrumental separation in the front soundstage. The music is often too loud and abrasive relative to the rest of the audio. I'm sure these problems stem back to the original mix. Whatever the cause, even given its age, the 'Predator 2' soundtrack disappoints.
The Blu-ray carries over almost all of the bonus features from the 2-disc Special Edition DVD released in 2005. In this regard, that puts it a good deal ahead of the Blu-ray release of the original 'Predator', which needlessly dumped all of the supplements from its comparable DVD. Of course, the features for 'Predator 2' never amounted to much.
'Predator 2' is pure guilty pleasure material. The movie isn't "good," per se, but it has enough blood, boobs, and cornball dialogue to make an enjoyable time waster when the mood strikes. The Blu-ray is adequate enough in the technical areas to get by, but won't be the type of thing anyone pulls off the shelf to demo their home theater system. Fans will find it worth a purchase. Everyone else can make do with a rental.