Predator 2: Special Edition (DVD)

Starring Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Bill Paxton

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas opened up a world – no, make that a universe – of possibilities when a mandibled alien, whose trigger-happy hunting ethic would make Ted Nugent proud, landed on Earth and tussled with Schwarzenegger in 1986’s Predator. Origins of the creature were kept at arm’s length, and by the film’s nuclear finale the door to a sequel was left wiiiide open. Better still, one could go in either direction with the next story: from finding the Predator in ancient Rome to mere days following Ahnold’s otherworldly ass-kicking. The Thomas brothers, however, opted to look into the future (wowza, mom, 1997!) for Predator 2, a ghetto-ized take on the first film’s scenario in the most literal sense – as this one is set in a gang war-ravaged Los Angeles – and figurative one too in that it’s the same formula only pizzazzier, bloodier, and it’s got a pair of bare tits in it. You know, the Joel Silver way. All this isn’t necessarily a hindrance depending on your approach to sequels.

In a nutshell, Danny Glover plays Lt. Harrigan as a slightly more sane but no less driven man of the law we watched him slip into in Saw. Something’s laying waste to the local Latino and Jamaican gangs; Harrigan wants to know who’s behind it. Slowing his investigation is G-man Peter Keyes played wild-eyed and full of spit by post-“I’m back from the dead” Gary Busey. Here comes the biggest bummer: We know what’s turning L.A. scumbags into slaughtered cattle. Beneath its hard boiled surface there’s Predator 2‘s biggest fault. There’s no mystery. It’s rediscovery time all over again for those who saw the first film. Accepting that little nuisance, you also have to get over the fact that we’ve now got Danny Glover, a man whose muscle mass is like a chicken strip compared to Arnie’s prime rib. How can we buy into this guy taking down a creature Arnold barely escaped himself? (Furthermore, a creature, as we witness in this installment, whose got a heavier arsenal of hunting devices at his fingertips?) Ultimately, it’s no spoiler that Glover does and once you can grin and bear these quandaries only then can you just sit back and watch the mayhem ensue. On a technical level, Stephen Hopkins surpasses John McTiernan’s action set pieces. As if dropping his pants and saying, “Hey, Johnny-boy! Look at what I got!” Hopkins opens the film big and ends it on a note that I, when seeing it in the theater just before Christmas in 1990, was still reeling from in geekdom glory when I walked out. A snazzy, seizure-inducing subway massacre (ugh, those strobe lights!) is another highlight. Alan Silversti’s own-worthy tribal score ties this hyper and bloody package together reflecting that whole “urban jungle” vibe. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Predator 2, you’ve got to admit…it’s better than Alien vs. Predator.

Being the thorough studio that they are, Fox has re-issued the film in a two-disc special edition package similar to ’04s Predator: SE (review) with solid picture and dynamite sound. Filled with mostly dated interviews on the second disc, two recently recorded separate commentaries on disc one keep the production memories fresh in Stephen Hopkins’ single-man discussion on track one and the writers Thomas on track two. Hopkins is amiable enough but seems bored revisiting a film he says could use a lot of fixing and has some regrets about. But isn’t that the way for most directors and their films? (Look at friggin’ George Lucas, for example.) He is satisfied with his “western” approach to the sequel, though, and cracks a lot of jokes about their attempts to make the film feel like its set in the future. Jim and John Thomas, on the other hand, give a less languid listening experience as they talk about the hastiness of getting the sequel written (it was penned in three weeks) and their involvement in the production. You listen to these guys and are amazed they even got to hang around on the set as much as they did, let alone have a small part in the casting process.

The Hunters and the Hunted (35m 37s) is the meatiest featurette on disc two, one that’s made up of on-set interviews with Glover (who describes this as a cerebral Predator film) and co-stars Bill Paxton, Ruben Blades and Maria Conchita Alonso. Busey gets his mug in here more than once revealing some intriguing motivation about his character that doesn’t actually make it into the story. He’s obviously loving life as this was the first film he starred in after a motorcycle accident. More featurettes are to be found under the Promo Gallery. The Predator Goes to Town (3m 3s) is your standard studio promotional fluff, ditto can be said for the international featurette (5m 41s); then there’s Predator 2: Creating the Ultimate Hunter (3m 40s), a FX spotlight piece with John Rosengrant of Stan Winston Studios. Three theatrical trailers, five television spots and a photograph montage set to Silvestri’s score fall under the gallery category as well.

Visual Effects Supervisor Joel Hynek’s commentary for Evolutions (8m 25s) reveals some of the frustrations of motion control photography which was required to pull off some of the key special effects shots. We’re shown the progression of these sequences as Hynek chuckles about the precision needed to pull them off and the “human” mistakes that often botched them up. More effects goodness is over at Weapons of Choice (7m 50s), a breakdown of the Predator’s newest weaponry. And, finally, as a bonus for those Morton Downey Jr. fans, the talk show host’s Hard Core segments featured in the movie have been extracted so you can check them out in their entirety.

Predator 2 (1990)

(Fox Home Entertainment)
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Starring Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Bill Paxton, Maria Conchita Alonso, Ruben Blades, Kent McCord, Kevin Peter Hall

Special Features

Commentaries with director Stephen Hopkins and writers Jim and John Thomas
Theatrical trailers and TV spots
“The Hunters and the Hunted”, “Weapons of Choice” and “Evolutions” featurettes
Promo Gallery
Hard Core segments

3 1/2 out of 5 Mugs O’ Blood

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Jon Condit