I haven’t seen Predator 2 in decades, and I’m amazed how much it’s grown on me over the years. What stood out to me the most is all the risks director Stephen Hopkins was willing and able to make to set this sequel apart from the original. After briefly mentioning the events of the first Predator, our story moves to the gang-infested streets of Los Angeles, which has become a violent warzone for drug activity. Prophetic, huh?
The LAPD is outgunned by the massive stockpile of firepower and automatic weapons possessed by rival drug gangs, the Jamaicans and Colombians. Observing the action overhead is the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall), who later that day takes out the Colombian drug lord and his henchmen at their penthouse stronghold. It should be noted that the alien hunter took out the gang in a very violent and gruesome manner.
Investigating the murders are Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) and detectives Leona Cantrell (Maria Conchita Alonso) and Danny Archuleta (Rubén Blades). Joining them is trouble-making new transfer Detective Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton). Standing in the way of Harrigan’s probe is FBI agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who uses his federal authority to take over the investigation, which does nothing to stop Harrigan from going out on his own. He discovers that the victims were skinned alive, and it’s soon revealed Keyes has known all this time that the threat is extraterrestrial in nature. Of course, the government wants to make good use of the newly discovered alien weaponry versus protecting the lives of drug cartels.
Like the first Predator, Predator 2 is a contest of champions between Glover’s Harrigan and the Predator. Granted, Glover is no Schwarzenegger, but he puts his full “too old for this s**t” attitude into play. What stuck out to me the most was the setting — moving from the jungles of Central America to the concrete jungles of Los Angeles. Not only is the scale bigger, but so is the body count.
“…the government wants to make good use of the newly discovered alien weaponry…”
The tone is probably the film’s weakness. Rather than the quiet movement through the primeval forest, the sequel turns into a fast-paced action movie. The opening gun battle is loud and relentless… and the Predator hasn’t even gotten involved at this point. The acting from everyone, but Glover, is over-the-top but par for the course for that era of action film. There’s a definite Albert Pyun feel to the actors reciting their comic book dialogue.
There are so many stars and soon-to-be stars in Predator 2. It’s like The Love Boat, but instead of a luxury cruise, it’s a horrific blood bath. We’ve already mentioned Danny Glover, Maria Conchita Alonso, Rubén Blades, Bill Paxton, and Gary Busey. Now add emerging superstars Adam Baldwin and Robert Davi and cameos from Kent McCord and Morton Downey, Jr. Most of these guys don’t make it out so well. The best part of the film is Glover. He’s channeling Roger Murtaugh while chasing an alien in the measured Danny Glover-style by thinking before acting.
As a sequel, I like the new setting and the high body count. Hopkins manages to stay true to the original while expanding its mythos. The ending offers an explanation for the creature’s motivations for the remainder of the franchise’s run. On the downside, the special effects leave a lot to be desired, especially at the end when the Predator(s) are standing in fog (which was added in post). But, what ultimately keeps this from being better than the original is its tone. It moves more toward Robocop than a truly scary alien thriller.
Predator 2 is one of the films that aged better over time. It made bold choices to be a memorable sequel, and most of those chances are exciting. While it has some definite hits and misses, it finds its rightful place in the franchise.
"…manages to stay true to the original while expanding its mythos."