Can a movie both proclaim that people on the autism spectrum are perhaps the next step on the evolutionary ladder and then make jokes about “ass burgers”? In Shane Black’s hyper-aware, yet disappointing, action/comedy reboot of The Predator, uneasy humor resides next to gory violence, creating a troubled mix that somehow worked in The Nice Guys but feels hopelessly sophomoric here.

Could Black, a former actor who briefly appeared in the vastly superior 1987 Predator, be exacting his revenge on the franchise for killing him off so soon by making a shitty movie? Or is The Predator simply a slick misstep in a directorial career that has featured such irreverent fan favorites as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys?

Let’s get this straight: there is absolutely nothing scary or suspenseful about The Predator. It’s a campy film, the equivalent of the Friday the 13th installment where Jason goes into outer space or whatever the fuck happened there. Let’s not forget, Black is most memorable for making a joke about the size of his girlfriend’s pussy in the original film. The word “pussy” does show up again, uttered by a guy with Tourette syndrome. Maybe Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker (anyone remember The Monster Squad?) just really like pussy.

The story is pretty straightforward: a Predator crash lands somewhere in the Mexican jungle, disrupting an American military operation. One of the snipers, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), finds some of the Predator’s high-tech armor and ships it home. After he is captured by some government sites, McKenna is whisked to a secret lab where a group of scientists are holding a Predator in custody. That doesn’t end well.

The Predator morphs from chase film to action battle royale as the alien gets loose and wreaks havoc. It’s up to McKenna and a gang of former soldiers suffering from PTSD (played by Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Keegan-Michael Key and Augusto Aguilera) to save humanity from this intergalactic visitor. Though this rag-tag group is quite lovable, Black has no problem using their trauma as the set-up for one gag after another.

Two other important characters also figure into Black’s script. Olivia Munn plays a scientist interested in studying the Predator while Jacob Tremblay is Rory, McKenna’s genius but disturbed young son, who unwittingly summons a second Predator to Earth. This one comes with tracking dogs with Predator heads. I shit you not.

While The Predator does have a handful of enjoyable sequences, Black simply cannot balance the humor with the gore. The original with Schwarzenegger worked best because we not only learn the monster’s mythology but it’s done with a completely straight face. Also, having action stalwarts like Carl Weathers and Jesse “I ain’t got time to bleed” Ventura on-hand made that film even more enjoyable. And while Black’s script kinda stinks, his motley crew of no-name or C-list actors do it any favors by radiating neither charisma nor star wattage. Shit, even a miscast Danny Glover in Predator 2 has more screen presence than these people.

Shane Black is the only reason I even cared enough to see another Predator movie. He is a big reason not to see this needless retread. Go rent the one with Schwarzenegger instead.

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