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In the remote jungle of a Central American country, an elite group of commandos led by Major Dutch Schaeffer, embarks on a CIA mission to clear out a guerrilla stronghold and rescue the remaining hostages. However, the hunters become the hunted when a highly intelligent, otherwordly being slowly and methodically starts killing off members of Dutch's team. Possessing a chameleonlike camouflaging ability and a deadly alien arsenal, the creature tracks down the soldiers one by one.
For more about Predator and the Predator Blu-ray release, see the Predator Blu-ray Review
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Shane Black
Director: John McTiernan
» See full cast & crew
Predator Blu-ray Review
A great re-release if it weren't for the total obliteration of the film's grain structure.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, June 28, 2010
I can't think of any action film from the 1980s more masculine than Predator. First off, it's called Predator, which, let's face it, immediately calls to mind hunting and, well, serial killing—typically macho occupations. Then, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man so ripped, taut, and oiled during his heyday that Australian ex-pat critic Clive James famously described him as looking like "a brown condom full of walnuts." Disgusting, yes, and uncannily accurate. As if Aaaah-nold weren't enough, the film employs the testosterone-fueled badassery of volatile wingnut Sonny Landham, pro-wrestler turned gubernatorial freewheeler Jesse Ventura, and Apollo Creed himself, Carl Weathers. The only way this film could be any more soaked in ball sweat would be if it somehow featured raw meat, an engine, and a sword. Oh, but wait—soldiers are found skinned alive in the jungle, Arnie sends a generator-powered truck into an enemy camp, blowing it to kingdom come, and Landham wields a giant machete that he uses to rake a jagged wound across his own chest, just to show how motherhumping hard he is. Did I mention the dreadlocked, mandible-mouthed alien with a pulse cannon?
Aside from a spacecraft seen entering Earth's atmosphere in the first shot of the film, Predator's opening act sets up what initially seems like a standard-issue Commando-style military thriller. A presidential cabinet minister is being held hostage by guerillas in Guatemala, and Major Alan "Dutch" Shaeffer (Schwarzenegger) is called in to help his old buddy, CIA officer George Dillon (Weathers), take care of the situation. Together, they traipse through the jungle with a crack team of war-hardened meatheads, including Native American tracker Billy Sole (Landham), nervous Vietnam vet Mac (Bill Duke), and Blaine Cooper (Ventura), a tobacco-chewing colossus who totes an enormous mini-gun he calls "Ol' Painless." When the mission goes balls up and the men find a trio of skinned corpses hanging from a copse of trees— piles of viscera on the jungle floor below—the film switches from the horrors of war to the horrors of, well, being stalked through the rainforest by an intergalactic hunter with infrared vision, a cloaking device, and sci-fi weaponry. One by one, the soldiers get picked off—you could call Predator an action/slasher—and each successive kill ups the gore quotient. Limbs are severed, spines removed, faces pulped. Eventually—and no surprise here—Dutch faces off against the alien alone, in a hand-to-hand battle for the title of Biggest Ball Sack in the Universe.
Penned by the Thomas brothers—screenwriting newcomers who wanted to cross Rocky with E.T.—and directed by John McTiernan, arguably the most successful action movie maestro of the mid-80s to mid-90s, Predator is big dumb fun done right. Yes, it's ridden with cliché set-ups and stock characters, and yes, there are definitely lapses in the film's internal logic, but McTiernan's particular genius is the way he makes us forget about all that and get caught up in the tight pacing and edge-of-your-seat tension. To some extent, he even overturns the conventions of the genre and our expectations for what might be called "gun porn." The first half of the film is all firefights and explosions, but something curious happens when our characters first set sight—gunsights—on the titular predator. Suddenly, these enormous weapons are terribly inefficient. There's a scene where all of Dutch's men basically stand in a row and straight up level a square acre of jungle with non-stop machine gun fire. They hit nothing. You can see the dejection and fear on their faces; it's like they're being told their penises no longer work. But then McTiernan and the Thomas brothers have the characters—Dutch in particular—do something way more manly than shooting automatic weapons: go primal. Dutch ditches the modern weapons, covers himself in mud, and starts building Home Alone-style traps using his natural surroundings. When we finally get to man-versus-alien throwdown, the predator ditches technology as well, taking off his facemask to reveal practical effects wizard Stan Winston's fantastically slimy monster make-up. The figurative gloves are off.
The now-iconic creature design nearly steals the show—the "predator" is scary, badass, tribal, and high-tech all at once—but what really makes the film is how fun it is. This is a movie that has no delusions about what it's supposed to do: entertain. The action certainly delivers—the film has a kill count that almost hits 70—and the interactions between the characters are, if a bit campy in retrospect, frequently hilarious. There's a vein of comedy running through the film to offset the gruesome violence, and like any Arnold film worth its sweaty salt, there are a handful of memorable one-liners. Who can forget "Get to da chop-ah!" or "Stick around!" or "You're one ah- gly mathafahkah." The best line, oddly enough, comes from Jess Ventura, who, after being told he's been wounded, replies, "I ain't got time to bleed." Badass. (What do you think the reaction would be if you could time travel back to '87 and tell theatergoers exiting Predator that both Schwarzenegger and Ventura would become state governors?) Predator is a veritable man-meat stew, a perfect recipe for a guy's night of insane on-screen violence, preferably accompanied by much beer guzzling and beef jerky gnawing. Heaven help any females caught wandering by your man cave as you watch this thing with your friends, as they'll likely be more repulsed than turned on by the powerful locker-room pheromones wafting through the door.
Predator Blu-ray, Video Quality
When Predator debuted on Blu-ray in April 2008, on a 25 GB disc, it featured a relatively low bit-rate MPEG-2 transfer, prone to excessive noisiness and compression artifacts. While the film has never been a slick-looking production, and though the 2008 version was certainly the best the movie had looked on home video up until that time, there was an outcry from videophiles who felt it could look even better. The solution, really, was simple: do a remaster, use a less antiquated encode, a higher bit-rate, and put it on a 50 GB dual-layer disc. 20th Century Fox complied for this new Ultimate Hunter Edition, but unfortunately, they've must've taken complaints about the film's graininess/noisiness to heart, because they've also slathered this re-release with an ungodly amount of digital noise reduction. Now, this is bound to be controversial. The vocal minority of so- called "grain-haters" will praise this transfer because there's no longer any evidence that Predator was shot on film—it now has a bright, glossy, smeary, plasticized sheen that's as far from filmic as you can get. And, it should be said, about as far from how Predator is supposed to look as you can get. This is revisionist re-releasing at its worst, and most film collectors —who tend to want films to look as close to their original appearance as possible—are going to be severely disappointed. I know I'm going to get hate mail, but I can't conscionably give this transfer any higher than a 2/5.
The texture of the film's grain structure has been stripped entirely from the picture, obliterating the finest details in the process. Arnie's face looks like a candle wax stump, oily and smooth. Carl Weathers' mustache seems airbrushed onto his face. The jungle might as well be digitized. Even the 20th Century Fox logo that opens the film appears soft, under a thick coating of Gaussian blur. This is easily one of the worst abuses of DNR to hit Blu-ray yet. What's frustrating, then, is that in most other regards, this transfer could have been a massive improvement. What's the point of a higher bit-rate if you're just going to scrub away the film's texture? Yes, the transfer looks clean, ultra-colorful, and bright—a good deal brighter than the previous release—but it also looks unnatural, artificial, unnecessarily tampered with. The good news—if you want to call it that—is that black levels are solid, compression artifacts are absent this time around, and edge enhancement is nowhere near as prevalent or overzealous as it is in other DNR'ed-to-oblivion titles. None of this really matters, though, when you're watching an image that looks like it's been rubbed down with Vaseline. I suddenly feel the urge to pray for the fidelity of the Alien quadrilogy box-set being released later this year.
Predator Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It's not all bad news. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track from the 2008 release has been ported over to the Ultimate Hunter Edition, and it sounds just as clean, clear, and hard-hitting. Granted, Predator's sound design doesn't have the aural finesse of a more modern action film, but it's got gunfire and explosions a'plenty. During the battle scenes, bullets rip loudly through every corner of the soundfield, and when stuff gets blown up, the accompanying LFE response has palpable, chest-rumbling power. Even the quieter scenes have some great ambience—crickets buzzing in the rears, a helicopter moving between channels, splashing and lapping water, radio chatter, and an abundance of jungle sounds. Even more impressive is Alan Silvestri's militaristic score, which fills out the track with its staccato rhythms and brass stabs. There's some disparity between the "loud" and "quiet" portions of the track—I did some finagling with the remote to balance it out—but otherwise, it's balanced well, with dialogue that's easy to understand, even during the more frantic moments.
Predator Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director John McTiernan
How I wish McTiernan was joined by Schwarzenegger, who always makes for a hilarious commentary track (check out Conan: The Barbarian). Alas, McTiernan goes it solo, and delivers a dry, quiet but informative track, with lots of "making of" type technical details and on-set anecdotes.
Text Commentary by Film Journalist/Historian Eric Lichtenfeld
This text-only commentary, when selected, runs as subtitles across the bottom of the screen. It's mostly comprised of interviews with the film's editor, sound effects designers, stunt choreographers, casting director, and screenwriters.
Predator: Evolution of a Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection (1080p, 11:13)
Producer John Davis and filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal discuss Predator's lasting impact in this new featurette. (The rest of the bonus materials—with the exception of the Predators sneak peak—have been ported over from the 2-disc special edition DVD.)
If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator (SD, 28:47)
Produced for the 2001 DVD release of the film and containing lots of vintage interviews and footage, this is a substantial making of documentary, tracing the production of Predator from spec script to screen. Everyone gets a say here—the writers, the director, most of the actors—but Arnie is noticeably missing in action.
Inside the Predator (SD)
Another port from the DVD release, Inside the Predator gives us seven vintage featurettes. Classified Action (5:21) takes us on set for some of the stunts, the cast and crew discuss Arnie's star-power in The Unseen Arnold (4:42), Old Painless (3:30) is an ode to the massive gatling gun that Ventura totes, and The Life Inside (4:26) is a tribute to the late Kevin Peter Hall. Wrapping it up, we have Camouflage (4:54), a look at the make-up work, Welcome to the Jungle (2:40), a discussion of the film's sense of place, and Character Design (4:41), which covers each characters' personality.
Special Effects (SD)
About three minutes of effects tests and composite elements.
Short Takes (SD)
Four short interviews that didn't fit anywhere else. In John McTiernan on Learning Film (3:05) the director talks about his film school experience, Jesse's Ultimate Goal (2:18) is about Ventura's venture into politics, Stan Winston: Practical Joker (3:02) is the story of a bullfrog-related prank, and Don't Drink the Water (1:58) is expert advice for all travelers to Mexico.
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (SD)
Includes four scenes: Fleeing the Predator (1:43), Chameleon (00:28), Building a Trap (2:12), and Sliding Downhill (00:56).
Theatrical Trailers (1080p)
Includes trailers for Predator (2:11) and Predator 2 (1:36).
Photo Gallery (1080p)
Predator Profile (1080p)
A text-and-photo-only profile of the alien predator, detailing all of his weapons and armor.
Predators: Sneak Peak (1080p, 1:44)
Director Robert Rodriguez talks about his vision for the upcoming film.
Predator Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A seminal 1980s action film—part horror, part blow 'em up, part men-on-a-mission adventure— Predator is tightly constructed and still holds up well today. For my money, it's also one of Schwarzenegger's best. Unfortunately, this Ultimate Hunter Edition re-release of the film on Blu-ray is coated with an egregious amount of DNR, making it look more like a digital production than the dark, gritty, shot-on-film-in-the-effing-jungle movie it's supposed to be. Inevitably—and unbelievably—some will like this new look, but purists will want to nab a copy of the 2008 edition before it goes out of print. Sure, that version has its flaws as well, but it's much more faithful to the film's original look. I'm pretty sure this is a one-off from Fox—they've been good to their older titles recently—but let's just hope this doesn't start a trend of overly manipulated catalog releases.
Predator: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Predator (2 bundles)
Predator Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Predator Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray Announced - May 25, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition for release on on Blu-ray on June 29, "just in time" for the theatrical debut of Predators on July 9 (for which $10 in movie money are included with the BD). This edition of ...
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