As sequels go, Predator 2 shouldn’t even work as well as it does. But here it is in all its Hollywood circa 1990 R-rated violent glory, still making me laugh both with and at it. Granted, you need a particular sense of humor to appreciate the film as a whole, as trying to pick it apart into chunks of good and bad ends up wrecking the work put into making it completely bonkers yet a total blast to sit down with for a spell.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t available for this sequel thanks to disagreements over his fee (something a little film called Terminator 2: Judgment Day would take care of forever), the film dropped his Dutch character and moves the setting ten years ahead to a sweaty 1997 Los Angeles where a heat wave and gang warfare lure in a new Predator for some urban hunting action. Inspired casting abounds here, with Danny Glover leading the way as Lieutenant Michael Harrigan, a not quite by the book cop who, like others in these sorts of action flicks, has unconventionally heroic means of getting the job done. Reuben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton also play cops working with Harrigan as Jamaican and Colombian drug gangs blast each other as well as anyone that happens to get between them.
(Thanks, Forever Horror!)
When the bulk of the Colombian gang is wiped out in what looks like a ritualistic sacrifice, Harrigan and his team immediately suspect the Jamaicans. But the loss of one of his team reveals there’s a third party at work here and Harrigan sets out to get to the bottom of things and possibly get some revenge in the process. Little does he realize that the bottom of things is very literally under the steaming streets in the form of a trophy packed alien ship.
Director Stephen Hopkins keeps the pace fast and furious, barely giving viewers time to breathe or think about much other than when that alien is going to pop up and take out some unsuspecting or even fully suspecting fools. One of the funniest scenes in the film involves Harrigan’s team versus the Predator on a packed subway train where all the passengers whip out guns when a mugger makes his appearance. It’s not exactly a fair fight, as a tin can on wheels speeding through a tunnel is like a turkey shoot for the hunter from space. You do find out during the comic carnage the species has either a moral code or just plain respect for pregnant women who happen to be armed. How… pleasant!
In addition to that murderous extraterrestrial taking out the gang trash, Harrigan has to deal with a rather zealous Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who’s supposed to be with the DEA, but turns out to be a bit higher up on the food chain. Keyes and his own team end up luring the Predator to an ambush spot with hilariously predictable results, but hey, they get an “A” for effort. It’s then up to Harrigan to take on the brute in a chase and fight scene that’s pretty painful on both man and alien alike. Oh, in case you didn’t realize it… Busey was/is kind of off the rails in real life, but his performance is somewhat restrained here. Well, to a point. “The lions… the tigers… the bears… oh my!”is his highlight line in the film, but he’s got a more than memorable demise not too long afterward.
The amped up colors, visual effects and over the top stunt work make this a better looking film than the first one, even when it goes overboard with a campy extended cameo by an annoying Morton Downey Jr. as Tony Pope, a so-called investigative journalist who sadly, doesn’t get offed by the Predator. For a mainstream Hollywood film of the era, the prosthetic effects are quite good, although you mostly see the after effects of the violence as opposed to getting an eyeful of blood when the bodies need to fall. As this is a different Predator (played by the same actor, Anthony Michael Hall), he’s been redesigned as a meaner-looking, sleeker, faster enemy with the same weaponry as in the first film. Glover’s battle with him is epic stuff, as both he and his stunt double and Hall and his go through a merry chase from a warehouse to a car/foot chase, eventually ending up on a rooftop and down the side, then through an apartment building finally leading down deep underground to the finale.
While the wrap-up is indeed great and Hollywoody, it leads to a big fat question of how a huge-ass alien ship got underneath the streets without anyone noticing. Amusingly enough, the film ends with a bang that leaves Harrigan covered in dust and confused as if it blew past him and the audience before they had the chance to get in some obvious questions that needed to be answered. Still, a memorable shot of an Alien skull from that other Fox franchise made audiences of the time go ape and crave some AvP action. Unfortunately, when that film and others with the Alien(s) vs Predator name did arrive, they weren’t anything to write home about at all, ranging from by the numbers dull to brutally mean-spirited despite some stellar costumes for both species.
It wouldn’t be until 2010’s Predators that we got an actual sequel that was in the same vein as the original 1987 film, but that’s the subject of an entirely different review as that particular film has great to not so great points worth picking apart.