In almost every way, “The Predator” is a testosterone soup of an action movie — big and bloody, militaristic and macho, with more alpha males than a wolf convention.
Thankfully, Olivia Munn comes through and kicks as much butt onscreen as she apparently did behind the scenes, when she protested after learning director Shane Black hired a buddy — a registered sex offender — to act in a scene with her.
The movie is a sequel, I guess, of the 1987 jungle sci-fi spectacle starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and of the 1990 follow-up “Predator 2,” and, heck, maybe even of the 2010 reboot “Predators” — but definitely not the two “Alien Vs. Predator” mash-ups. A filmmaker has to draw the line somewhere.
An Army commando leader, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), is on a mission somewhere in Mexico to rescue hostages from a drug cartel. Before the drop happens, something literally falls from the sky: A spacecraft, and an occupant who is pretty efficient at killing. McKenna grabs a couple of items from the crashed ship, and arranges to mail them back home in the States.
The recipient who can make best use of this alien tech is McKenna’s son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay, from “Room” and “Wonder”), a socially-awkward fourth-grader who is an autistic savant — because the “Rain Man” cliche never gets old. He instantly figures out the alien tech, which turns out to be quite explosive during trick-or-treating.
Meanwhile, Munn’s character, Dr. Casey Brackett, an expert in alien biology, is asked to confer at a top-secret government research site. That’s where a ruthless boss, Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), and a team of scientists are keeping a captured Predator under heavy sedation — at least until something triggers the creature, and then the lab is being repainted with scientist blood and guts.
McKenna finds himself on a military prison bus with a group of hotheads and misfits — a line-up consisting of Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”), Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”), Augusto Aguilera, Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key. When the Predator gets loose, these guys spring into action, aided by Casey’s expertise, to rescue Rory and figure out what the hell’s going on.
Good luck with that last part. I’m not sure Black and co-writer Fred Dekker know what’s going on from moment to moment. Nor do I think they care, as long as the blood spurts regularly, the action stays fierce, and the tough-guy one-liners fall thick and fast. After all, this is the franchise that gave us Jesse Ventura saying “I ain’t got time to bleed,” so there’s a tradition to uphold.
Yes, Black peppers the script with references for the diehard fans, including a well-placed “Get to the chopper!” And, as Black did in “Iron Man 3” and “The Nice Guys,” the cute kid makes major contributions to defeating the baddies.
In a movie this overloaded with dudes, of course Munn is the stand-out. She proves herself a true action hero, battling with fists and brains, and getting her share of witticisms to deliver. Even when Black contrives the equivalent of a shower scene, Munn manages to get through it with some level of dignity. How about we give her a franchise and see what she can do with it?
Opens Friday, Sept. 14, in theaters everywhere. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references. Running time: 107 minutes.