Predator 2 follows on from the 87 original, but fails to bring back the essential ingredients that made that an action-classic. Original director John McTiernan followed Predator by directing the genre-defining Die Hard, so Predator 2 got Stephen Hopkins, the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed on this in favour of Terminator 2, so the character was rewritten into the mysterious government agent played by the always-watchable-but-never-awesome Gary Busey. Unfortunately, these and other factors make Predator 2 a far lesser film than its predecessor.
The original Predator established that the titular alien big-game hunter is attracted by heat and conflict, so this sequel transplants the action from the jungles of South America to the urban jungle, a heat wave-stricken Los Angeles in the (then) future of 1997. The city is gripped by violent armed conflicts between the rival Jamaican and Colombian drug cartels. Thrust into this drug war is an undermanned and underfunded LAPD, spearheaded by Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) and has team consisting of Danny (Rubn Blades), Leona (Maria Conchita Alonso) and new-guy Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton).
Mysterious and violent killings of armed gangs of both Colombians and Jamaicans lead Harrigan to surmise that theres a new player in town. At the same time, the arrival of a secretive government team led by agent special agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) keeps interfering with Harrigan’s investigations. Soon enough, members of Harrigan’s team are being killed and Keyes is revealed to be hunting a visitor from way out of town, leading to a showdown between Harrigan and the alien.
Danny Glover is a better actor than this sort of film needs, but while he has bulked up for the role, he’s not really convincing as the aggressive and maverick cop who bucks authority to get the job done. Admittedly, maybe I just see him as too Murtaugh to be a Riggs. Harrigan is given some depth with his fear of heights and general level of visible near-panic in the later parts of the film, which are unusual for a character in this role. These interesting traits are wholly absent from the rest of his team however, they are paper-thin caricatures without the macho swagger that made the military team of the original film so charismatic. Bill Paxton is likable as the sleazy but earnest new guy, while Mara Conchita Alonso tries her very best to channel Aliens’ Vasquez, but its hard to feel any attachment to the characters or any tension about the threat to them.
Gary Busey hams it up a treat as the government agent trying vainly to block Harrigan from his investigation (since every loose-cannon cop needs an authority figure to tell to “go fuck themselves!”), and Calvin Lockhart has a memorable scene as the leader of the Jamaican Voodoo Possee, King Willie, but very few of the characters are particularly interesting.
The Predator himself holds up as a great creature design courtesy of Stan Winston. This time around he has more toys to bring to the hunt including such sporting favourites as an extending spear and a high-tech bladed discus. Unfortunately this was one of the last performances of veteran suit performer Kevin Peter Hall who died in 1991. This time around we see the inside of the Predators’ spacecraft, which has an interesting design and striking look. It also houses the trophy cabinet containing an Xenomorph skull as a nod to the other Fox sci-fi franchise, long before the cinematic crossovers were made (admittedly the AvP comic series was running at this time).
Overall Predator 2 is a pretty forgettable sci-fi action film. The action itself is passable, but after watching Predator 2 yesterday I still remember scenes from the original more vividly. Unfortunately when it comes to directing action, Stephen Hopkins is no John McTiernan.