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Review: In ‘The Predator,’ Hunting Season Arrives With a Smirk

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

Sporting the taxonomically useless title “The Predator,” the latest movie in the “Predator” franchise comes courtesy of Shane Black (“The Nice Guys”), who appeared as comic relief in the 1987 original and seems to have taken that experience to heart.

The new film splits the difference between serving up snark and self-parody — a middle school is named after the producer Lawrence Gordon; there are callbacks to lines from the other films — and delivering the goods for fanboys who insist that the predator have a back story. The efforts to imbue an extraterrestrial-boogeyman scenario with tidbits about genetics and climate change (and even a hint of “Star Wars,” to which the incidental scoring owes a lot) tend to squelch the menace.

The 1987 “Predator” had Arnold Schwarzenegger. “The Predator” settles for Boyd Holbrook, playing an elite sniper with a genius son (Jacob Tremblay) on the autism spectrum. Olivia Munn is a scientist who “basically wrote the book on evolutionary biology.”

Circumstances bring them together with a group of misfit soldiers (they include Trevante Rhodes and Keegan-Michael Key, who get the best lines). The ostensibly comic scene in which the men meet Ms. Munn’s character — she wakes up after accidentally shooting herself with a tranquilizer dart to find them creepily watching her — leaves a bad aftertaste. (Last week, The Los Angeles Times reported that Fox cut a scene between Ms. Munn and the actor Steven Wilder Striegel after Ms. Munn discovered that Mr. Striegel was a registered sex offender.)

The frat house atmosphere eventually gives way to tedious bloodletting. In that regard, “The Predator” hasn’t evolved at all.

Rated R. Predation. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.


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