Predator 2 (1990)
Hunting season opens again...
The predator is probably one of my favorite alien creatures I've ever been privileged enough to learn of. Lean, mean, and out for the trophy heads of whatever creature proves to be a bad enough dude to merit it's attention - what's not to like about him? Pitch in that incredibly fun first run in the cinema universe against Arnold, and you really couldn't ask for much more - except an equally as fun sequel. Mayhaps you've read Concrete Jungle and are curious as to if the movie follows it's path? Can the second pitch handle the spotlight, or is it time for it to strike out?
We start off in a hot and violent summer in LA. The local gangs have been getting super-frisky it seems, and are constantly at each others throats with the poor cops in the middle. With two motorcycle cops down during this particular skirmish, things are looking bad for the out numbered and out gunned cop force as our main character arrives on the scene. After getting a quick update on the situation, he decks out his car with some bulletproof vests and charges in to put it between the gang and the wounded cops so they can get them out. It's a brave move - and it works, resulting in many of the gang members retreating inside their nearby building hideout to re-outfit and upgrade to some bigger guns. Thanks to the main character, the remaining gang members outside are 'cleaned up', but the order comes in from up the command chain to stay outside the building - something that promptly gets ignored by our main character after an explosion goes off in the building for seemingly no reason.
When they get inside, the main chases down the leader of the gang to the roof, where he promptly gets blown off the roof by our hero when he draws on (what we the audience see) is a mysterious invisible-ish shape. When he heads back downstairs, they all see the impossible destruction that happened to the rest of the gang on account of the mystery figure that we (but not the characters) saw. The feds show up and take over the case, and when he gets back to the station he gets an earful from his higher-ups. Him and his squad of two also get a replacement at this point - someone who seems to be getting off on the wrong foot despite being a good officer. Another murder comes up, and once again the hero and gang decide to ignore orders from the feds to check it out, finding a very similar MO to that of the gang members that were killed earlier. Our heroic sidekick spots something in the ceiling though, and after the feds leave he climbs up top to get it - and although he does, he doesn't make it past it's owner.
Our hero is slowly starting to figure out that something isn't right, and after having his remaining partners tail the feds things are getting even weirder. It's not gonna stop him now, as with the death of his best friend/partner it's now personal. He gets a meeting with the main remaining big-player in the drug gang market, who soon dies after their meeting, prompting his partner to believe that whatever is out there killing people may be going after our hero. He gets a good idea of where the killer is, and his partners take a subway to meet up with him there - except our extraterrestrial visitor wants to hitch a ride, and the place is now loaded with prime trophy targets thanks to a scuffle in the train causing a lot of armed citizens to be on board with our two cop partners. Will our hero be able to track down the feds and figure out whats going on? Can he take down the alien menace?
The plot is interesting in the sense that it changes the location to the city rife with crime and the likes, where lots could be done with. It doesn't really do too much super fancy with the setting however - outside the subway scene that could cause people with epilepsy some trouble - but it does include a bit of a "progression" from the first in that it states that it happened. The predator itself has new gadgets and weapons, so everything in the long run does feel as though it has been upped a bit as a good sequel should. On the other hand, the actual plot itself isn't necessarily anything super new - it essentially boils down the same setup as the first movie, just with a concrete setting.
Effects work is great here. Explosions, gunshots, all the normal action-movie stuff is here and solidly done for it's time period. Added to that are some interesting costumes - mainly the predator itself and King Willy being the main fanciful ones. Predator-side, there isn't a huge improvement on most of the special effects - such as the cloak or the crackling cloak failure, or the shoulder cannon - but the suit itself has seen some improvements of sorts - although the mouth mandibles have gotten a bit of a change it would appear. Not really a big deal, but it does lead to the unmasked predators having a bit of an "jaw agape" feeling. This is probably made up for in most people's opinions by giving us a decent selection of different predators at the end - different skin patterns, helmets, outfits, it's pretty neat and all practical baby.
The biggest issue I have with this movie is probably the acting. It's not bad, and there are a few bigger names in it, but at times lines are delivered with such emotion you'd think Kristen Stewart was in it. Likewise goes with the general expressions of the characters at times, where even if they say something that sounds like there's feeling behind it, it almost feels as though it was dubbed given the facial expressions. It's not all bad, and pretty near every character in the movie has at least one moment where they feel like a living character, but in comparison to the over-the-top military macho soldiers of the first, the cop team lacks quite a bit of zazz in the attraction department.
As a standalone movie, it's not bad. As a sequel, there are aspects that are in fact much more fun than the first (new predator toys, multiple predator costumes shown even if not really used for anything), but for the most part the first played as a much more serious yet campy affair. The sequel at times feels down right comical, which in turn feels out of place with some of the emotionless deliveries from some characters. Usually we end here, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the comparison to the book - Predator: Concrete Jungle. The book is much more fun, period. Although some of the characters roles are generally the same, and some of the plot is pretty much the same, the scope of the book is much more impressive - down to an ending that's essentially all out gang war between the main cops, the gangs, and the predators. The only thing that the book doesn't have on the movie is Bill Paxton - but I guess we can't all be perfect can we?