The eighties played host to the rise of the mindless action film, which went hand in hand with the insurrection of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s film career. Predator is probably the most famous of the many films in this particular sub-genre of 80s popcorn action films, mostly due to the compelling story, easy to digest plotline and the superb quality of the overall film. The direction, and cinematography are all top notch. The acting, while simple and a little caricaturish, is solid and certain doesn’t stand in the way of the solid production. Everyone on the set knows that they’re not remaking Citizen Kane, and as a result it all works really well. And now a little about the story…
Major Alan “Dutch” Shaeffer (Schwarzenegger) and his team of SAR specialists (Search and Rescue) are called into a South American jungle hell in order to rescue a diplomatic attaché to a friendly South American nation whose helicopter went down on the wrong side of the border. Dutch starts to suspect that more is afoot when it turns out he was recommended for the job by Dutch’s old army buddy, CIA agent George Dillon (Weathers) who is supposed to escort the team of veterans on their mission, something that doesn’t sit well with the group.
Dillon: “I heard about this little job you pulled up in Berlin, very nice, Dutch…”
Dutch: “Good old days…”
Dillon: “Yeah, like the good old days… How come you passed up on Lybia, eh?”
Dutch: “Oh, it wasn’t my style…”
Dillon: “You got no style, Dutch, you know that! C’mon, why? Why did you pass?”
Dutch: “We’re a rescue team. Not assassins.”
The rest of the team, gatling gun-toting Blain (Ventura) and his long-time friend Mac (Duke), the stoic Native American tracker Billy (Landham), the nerdy, comic book reading Hawkins (Black) and the intelligent scout Poncho (Chaves) reluctantly accept Dillon as a third wheel, but give him various degrees of a hard time. From Blain’s attempt to fuck with Dillon by spitting chewing tobacco on his boots while they’re in the “choppah,” to Mac giving him shit for not being the stealthy veteran out in the bush that they all are and promising him that he’ll do horrible things to him if he keeps giving away their position with his bumbling. It’s here where you start to realise that Mac’s probably suffering from some severe PTS and is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Mac: “You’re ghostin’ us, motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the world, you give away our position one more time, I’ll bleed ya, real quiet. Leave ya here. Got that?”
By this point, it’s obvious by the interaction that this group of people are long time veterans of many campaigns, who have worked together on many, many occasions and have developed an equilibrium that is upset by Dillon’s presence. Small snippets of conversations hint at a rich background with many missions, each of which could be turned into their own film;
Mac: “I seen some bad ass bush before, but nothin’ like this.”
Blain: “I hear ya. This shit’s somethin. Makes Cambodia look like Kansas.”
Poncho: “Do you remember Afghanistan?”
Dutch: “I’m trying to forget it.”
The group is trekking through the jungle and eventually find the crash site for the helicopter and notice that the diplomats are missing while the pilots have been executed. Also, the helicopter was taken down with sophisticated weaponry, not the stuff Dutch expected to encounter in a jungle populated by guerillas. Again, his suspicion that Dillon’s motives aren’t what he says they are is strengthened, especially when Billy finds tracks of the guerillas and the two prisoners, as well as a separate set of tracks of six men wearing U.S. issued army boots following in pursuit. It seems a small group of Americans soldiers had preceded them, though Dillon denies knowing anything about it. Soon after, Billy stumbles upon the mutilated bodies of the soldiers, stripped of their gear, hanging upside down, skinned and eviscerated, from a tree. They manage to salvage their dog-tags, and it turns out to be soldiers familiar to Dutch and his crew. Dillon still maintains that he doesn’t know what those soldiers were doing there.
Then they stumble upon the guerilla camp where they witness one of the diplomats being executed by a Russian-speaking commander. They decide to lay waste to the entire camp in an epic and memorable battle. The action scene is ridiculous in the way this group of veterans manage to lay waste to an entire camp of guerillas, while taking (almost) no casualties. The only one that’s wounded, though barely, is Blain, who has taken “Old Painless” out of the bag, his gatling gun. (These things are usually reserved as helicopter mounted rotary cannons.)
Blain: [Looking up to a machine gun nest at the top of a cliff] “Son of a bitch is dug in like an Alabama tick.”
Poncho: “You’re bleeding, man. You’re hit.”
Blain: “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
Poncho: [Amused] “Oh… Okay…”
Poncho: [Poncho shoots a bunch of grenades up to the top of the cliff] “You got time to duck?”
After the camp is demolished by hip-fired automatic weapons fire and explosive grenades, Dillon searches through some documents and the real purpose of the mission becomes clear; they were never meant to rescue the prisoners, they were meant to take out the camp and retrieve some intelligence on a planned, Russian-backed invasion. Dutch is furious and confronts Dillon, who rebuts Dutch’s objections by telling them that he did what had to be done to get results.
Dutch: “So you cooked up a story and dropped the six of us in a meat grinder… What happened to you, Dillon? You used to be someone I could trust.”
Dillon: “I woke up. Why don’t you? You’re an asset. An expendable asset. And I used you to get the job done, got it?”
Extraction from the base by helicopter is impossible due to guerillas moving in on their position, so they have to move towards a safe landing zone quite a bit of travel away. On top of all of that, they’ve got themselves a prisoner, a woman named Anna (Carrillo), who refuses to speak. Dutch and his men want to leave her behind, but Dillon wants to take her along in order to extract information from her. When Dutch objects, he’s put in his place, but does defiantly promise him that if she slows any of the group down, he’s going to leave her and necessarily Dillon behind. They start moving. And then the story really starts.
A mysterious killer is stalking them, picking them off one by one. First Hawkins, then Blain. They try to make a stand, but the killer seems to be aware of all their traps and ambushes. Slowly but surely everyone is driven to the brink of insanity. Billy, who remains stoic throughout the entire expedition, seems ill at ease, peering out into the trees, as if he’s listening to something that the jungle is whispering into his ear. People are getting unnerved by his silence, until Poncho confronts him, his voice dripping with fear. Billy calmly addresses him;
Poncho: “You know something, what is it?”
Billy: “I’m scared, Poncho.”
Poncho: “Bullshit! You ain’t afraid of no man.”
Billy: “There’s something out there waiting for us… and it ain’t no man. … We’re all gonna die.”
But will they!? If you’re one of the four men in the world, ages 16 to 30, that hasn’t seen this film yet, I won’t spoil the ending for you, and I seriously recommend you go and see it. If you don’t, you risk merciless ridicule and bodily harm. Not convinced? Here’s the trailer: