The new Arnold Schwarzenegger flick "The Last Stand" is hitting theaters today and from the clips we’ve seen the big guy is looking a little worn. (Sorry Arnie – it may be time to hang up the guns and ammo!) In any case we want to remember the Austrian bodybuilder in the peak of his acting and grunting prowess – so welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today’s cigar selection isn’t just because of Arnold himself, but everything from memorable music to charismatic characters that cook. (Under the hot sun no less!) An elite group of Special Forces soldiers, frenetic hostages, foreign prisoners and the Arnold hit Central America to face the otherworldly..."Predator!"
When there is a mission that’s a no-win situation, Special Forces leader Dutch Schaefer and his team are the right men for the job. Seems they’ve been called in to rescue some hostages deep in guerrilla territory in Central America and Dutch’s old buddy George Dillon has vouched for him taking the gig. Then things start to go bad. The gang comes across another group of soldiers hanging from the trees and skinned alive, find military paperwork amongst the so-called hostages that’s suspicious and they’re so deep inside hostile land that for now they’re on their own. But they’re far from alone – for the watching Predator it’s now hunting season.
I’m being vague and mysterious, but if you don’t know the background of the "Predator" after so many good and bad sequels this column may not be for you. (Fine – he’s an alien warrior dropped to earth to fight, hunt and collect trophies of all he kills, okay?!) What makes this first outing so notable (and shows the subpar nature of most of the others!) is not just the Predator itself, but everything else. Unfolding like a layered stage play on nitroglycerine (think "12 Angry Men"... with mini-guns!) and riddled with savory characters you can sink your teeth into, "Predator" from frame one lets the audience care about everyone involved. Meaning everyone be it good (Arnold has never met a bicep or damsel he didn’t want to save and nurture!), bad (Carl Weathers is the perfect smarmy tough guy!), cool (Jesse ‘The Body’ Venture almost steals the show with one-liners and glorious guns!) creepy (Sonny Landham has never been more eerie!) and just plain naïve (future scribe and director Shane Black plays a geeky guy with bad jokes in his pocket!) are all given ample time to breath, grow and blossom long before the Predator picks them off. Personality through humor, sass and musical score and song class (how about a some Little Richard for the copter ride in!) all work in tandem to make the characters relatable – and the end result is we care about them all.
Not that I’m knocking the glory of the guy from outer space, as the Predator design itself is one of Stan Winston’s most creative creatures ever. In a melding of hunter, animal and futuristic spaceman, the Predator is a character enigma that unfolds as the film itself does – with extreme detail and care. Director John McTiernan, who also helmed the original five-star "Die Hard," has no problem handing both action and sci-fi elements with ease. But the pairing of Winston’s imagination with McTiernan’s solid style and affinity for high blood and body counts is a match that guarantees fireworks. (The right men for the job indeed!)
I remember watching an early double bill of "Robocop" and "Predator" for the first time at a friends house as a kid and the pair were an exciting new example of blending intensity and great storytelling masked as action yarns that was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was almost embarrassed by the real and raw nature of both as an insecure tot, but today I realize what a rare cinematic treat it was. "Predator" is a fine mix of all the right elements that provide deadly accuracy in the realm of a memorable motion picture. Tough guys, hot setting, big guns, great quotes ("get to the chooper!") and personalities to boot - the real killer here is all of the above.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura
Director: John McTiernan
Runtime: 107 minutes
Release Company: 20th Century Fox