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Looking Back: Predator 2 (1990)

Once the filmmakers behind “Predator 2” realized that Arnold Schwarzenegger was not returning for the sequel, I suspect they came up with a plan. Rather than make a follow up to the 1987 smash that was smaller in scale, I suspect they regrouped and decided, if we lose the biggest star in the world for the lead, then let’s make up for his absence by having everything on screen loom large. Neither Schwarzenegger nor his character are referenced in this sequel, but mega-producer Joel Silver attempts to compensate by injecting every scene, every moment in “Predator 2” with more ‘splosions, gore and visual effects than the original. Whereas John McTiernan’s “Predator” was elegant trash, the sequel is flashy trash.

From the first frame on, everything you see here is gratuitous. Whether it’s a shoot out, a forced bit of nudity, a slaying, a loud sex scene or a beheading, this plays like a demo reel for what an R-rated movie looks like.

“Predator 2” begins with an extremely caffeinated action sequence, in which a shoot out between cops and a gang of coked-out bad guys takes up blocks that get blown to pieces. Everyone in the cast is yelling, covered in sweat and firing guns, SWAT team members are flying through the air from the force of the detonating explosions, and, in between reloading, the bad guys are doing Scarface-level handfuls of white powder. In case that sounds dull, there’s also the late Morton Downey Jr., the controversial shock talk show host, playing a barely-exaggerated version of himself. Then, Danny Glover shows up, playing a cop that doesn’t seem at all different from his Murtaugh character in “Lethal Weapon.” Glover adds to the chaos, knocks the front door off his car and drives into the bad guys, adding a barricade for his colleagues and running down who-knows-how-many bystanders. In the midst of all the very exciting mayhem, some of the bad guys fall back, hole up in a building and, to their surprise, are slaughtered by the same species of camouflaged alien warrior from the first “Predator.”

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Director Stephen Hopkins, who helmed the admirably stylish, under-appreciated fifth “Nightmare on Elm St.” sequel, knows how to stage eventful carnage. It helps a great deal that composer Alan Silvestri returns to pump up his already rousing music from the first film and that all of this is produced on a seemingly hefty budget. The opening set piece may be a self parody of testosterone-fueled movie making but it works. So does the extended ending, in which Glover goes mano y monster and takes on the creature himself. Everything in between is rubbish. Like “RoboCop 2” from the same year, the calculated effort to heighten the violence results in an exceptionally vile movie. The needless Jamaican gangster subplot would have been laughable even if Steven Seagal’s “Marked For Death” (released by the same studio) hadn’t done it a few months earlier.

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Glover isn’t a worthy Ah-nold stand in but he more than keeps up with the barrage of sleaze and spectacle on hand. Gary Busey is fun and relatively subdued, in the first of his run as an action movie scene stealer in the 1990’s. Bill Paxton’s sidekick character is supposed to be obnoxious but his trying-too-hard performance is unbearable. Maria Conchita Alonso, as this movie’s answer to Vasquez from “Aliens,” only degrades herself, in yet another step down from her wonderful turn in “Moscow on the Hudson.” Action movie vets Adam Baldwin, Robert Davi and Steve Kahan (the police captain in the “Lethal Weapon” series) show up but the real star is Kevin Peter Hall, once again making the movements of the Predator exotic, fluid and eerie.

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Taking the Predator out of the jungle and placing into the “urban jungle” doesn’t entirely pay off. While this isn’t a letdown like “AVP” or a rotten disaster like “AVP- Requiem,” it’s nowhere near as fun, focused, well-written and cast “Predators,” still the best sequel to “Predator.” Hopkins’ raunchy, very 90’s franchise entry is a state of the art Hollywood movie, but only worth enduring from start to finish if you don’t mind gooey splashes of blood soaking up your popcorn.

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II
Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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