1990’s Predator 2 never got a fair shake, mostly because it’s not the first Predator. While it is certainly nowhere near as good as the original, Predator 2 stands on its own as a pretty great action/horror flick and a solid expansion of the franchise’s mythos. It’s insanely violent and bloody, even without the inclusion of the headhunting alien. It plays like a straight ’80s/’90s action movie and then takes a hard left turn into violent science fiction, which turns out to be a winning mixture. There’s a lot of stuff to love in Predator 2.
Predator 2 takes place in 1997 in a Los Angeles that is on the brink of anarchy. Vicious gangs wage war in the street and the cops are outgunned at every turn, ineffective and unable to stop the violence that is overtaking the city. One cop, Lieutenant Michael Harrigan, plays by his own rules and gets results any way he can. Of course, the violence on the street goes from bad to worse when a Predator shows up and starts stringing up gang members and collecting skulls. This setting actually works really great, especially in differentiating it from the original film. If there’s one thing Predator 2 does very right, it’s that it never tries to be Predator. It is, one hundred percent, its own beast.
You can’t talk about this sequel without discussing its seemingly odd choice of a lead. My friend often jokes that the producers must have requested the guy from Lethal Weapon and when Danny Glover showed up they realized they probably should have been more specific. All kidding aside, Glover is actually pretty great. He plays Harrigan perfectly — tired, bitter, and constantly at odds with everyone. He’s never quite as convincing in the action sequences as the bigger action stars of the era, but he sells the quieter moments better than any of them. He, rightfully, seems confused and horrified most of the movie.
We can’t forget that Predator 2 also features amazing – seriously amazing – performances from Bill Paxton and Gary Busey. We all remember how awesome Busey is because Busey is always awesome, but for some reason Paxton rarely gets credit for his role in this movie. He’s a proper douchebag, as he always seemed to be in the early stages of his career. Watching Paxton opposite Glover in this movie will kind of make you wish we just had a whole flick that centered on their partnership, forget the alien monster. Plus, it’s worth noting that Paxton played a role in the sequels to both Predator and Alien. That should be a Jeopardy question or something.
Visually, Predator 2 is just as fantastically-designed as the first film. The creature looks amazing, even watching 25 years later. The makeup effects are stunning and really put sloppy, modern CGI effects to shame. When it comes to design, you really can’t beat the Predators. They are simply one of the coolest creatures to ever grace the horror/action film landscape, second only to the Xenomorphs of Alien (perhaps this is the real reason the creatures are such bitter enemies). When it comes to looks, Predator 2 holds up.
That said, the best part of Predator 2 is the subtle way it expands the world of these characters. The ending not only features a proudly-displayed Xenomorph skull, but also a moment that lets us know that these creatures have been coming to earth and hunting us for a very, very long time (at the least dating back to 1715). It tells you, without hammering it into the viewer through flashbacks or heavy exposition, that there are countless other stories involving Predators and their prey. Then, there’s the film’s final line, mumbled by Glover. When one of the agents who was attempting to capture the Predator expresses his frustration that the creature got away, Glover says “don’t worry, asshole, you’ll get another chance.” They’ll be back, one day, to hunt again. That, my friends, is some fantastic world building.
We can all admit that Predator 2 is not as good as Predator; we get it and we agree. But, that doesn’t mean that Predator 2 isn’t any good. It’s a solid action movie that moves lightning fast – everything is blowing up with the first minute of the movie – and it makes you want to see more Predator stories. It’s a fun movie that you might have written off. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor and give it a second chance, you’ll be surprised at how great it is.