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Fox / 1987 / 106 Minutes / Rated R / Street Date: June 29, 2010
Predator is Fox’s second alien franchise, and until the AVP series was introduced, it hadn’t been exploited quite as much as Ripley’s Alien. Regardless, Predator is very entertaining. And like the Alien series, Fox has revisited the title with multiple releases: the first was a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD disappointment; the second was an anamorphic transfer on DVD with a DTS audio option that improved the presentation, but remained essentially featureless; and then there was a third DVD release, a Collector’s Edition with the same anamorphic transfer, but loaded with fine supplements. Then we had a fine-looking Blu-ray Disc (sans virtually all supplements) and now this Ultimate Hunter Edition high-def double-dip.
For the sake of the three of you who may not be familiar with the plot, Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lands on a tropical beach with his high-risk rescue commando team. He’s greeted by an ex-colleague, Dillon (Carl Weathers), now a civilian who works for an unnamed agency. They arm wrestle a handshake, biceps straining, veins bulging, until one backs down. (Look up testosterone in the dictionary and you’ll find a photograph of the cast of Predator. Don’t mess with these guys.)
A briefing reveals that the mission is to rescue a downed helicopter crew and their precious cargo of diplomats. Dillon, Dutch, and his team are airlifted into a dense tropical rainforest where they begin their search for the missing aircraft. But things are not what they seem. Inexplicable tracks are found that had been made by American boots. When the chopper is located, the pilot is dead, the crew and passengers are missing. And nearby, some of the Americans that they had tracked are found hanging upside down, skinned, and quite dead. Dog tags reveal the identity of the dead team leader, an officer known to Dutch.
It quickly becomes clear that Dutch and his team were deceived when they were briefed. Dillon reluctantly admits that the diplomats are intelligence operatives, and Dutch’s team has been set up to confront a hostile force. It’s now too late; they must press ahead. The guerilla encampment is found, and during a brutal firefight, all but one of the guerillas are killed. The chopper crew and passengers are dead. Dutch and his team now have to make their way on foot to the border, encumbered by the surviving guerilla that may have useful information. Only after they’ve crossed into friendly territory will it be safe to extract them. But as they hunted the guerillas, they were being watched... by an alien tourist, here for a little sport.
We discover that the clever premise of Predator is that a member of an alien hunter/warrior species comes to Earth from time to time to hunt that most dangerous of creatures, man. Presumably, the alien takes back human skulls and mounts his trophies on a den wall (a premise that will be explored briefly and intriguingly in Predator 2). Dutch’s team finally realizes that they’re being stalked as the Predator begins to take them out one by one. In a series of confrontations, the Predator prevails, leading to the ultimate mano-a-mano climax. The film is tensely paced, with an effective score by Alan Silvestri. This is a first rate movie that skillfully weaves the genres of action and science fiction.