” GOES ALL IN FOR ALIEN THRILLS; “JACK RYAN” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
THE PREDATOR (Rated R) Arnold Schwarzenegger made his mark in the Eighties with films like “The Terminator,” “Conan the Barbarian,” and “Predator,” the latter of which he quite astutely did not join in any of the sequels. “The Predator,” written and directed by Shane Black, takes a departure from the past, infusing this action thriller with tongue-in-cheek humor and wisely skipping any misguided links of previous films in the franchise to the “Alien” films.
But even with the new touches of Shane Black’s vision, based on the director’s affinity for thrilling action mixed with a sense of humor, the question is whether the “Predator” franchise is necessary to be revived at this time. At best, “The Predator” is an action-filled B-movie that would probably play best at local drive-ins if such theaters remained in plentiful supply. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking as an entertaining diversion.
The action gets off to a fast start when Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a former Special Forces Army Ranger turned mercenary soldier, is in Mexico on a mission to rescue hostages held by a drug cartel. The arrival of an alien spaceship scrambles the hostage liberation effort, and McKenna and his squad are faced with a deadly encounter with the Predator, a fearsome creature with physical strength unmatched by any human. Barely escaping as the only survivor, McKenna is able to retrieve some alien gear, including a helmet and a metal casing for the forearm. He ships the equipment back home to his son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay). Once the package arrives, Rory, a loner afflicted with autism who is bullied at school because he’s a genius, tinkers with the alien equipment, triggering the Predator’s ability to track down what McKenna managed to steal.
Upon returning to the States, McKenna is taken by the government for mental observation and is put on a military prison bus with a group of veterans suffering from PTSD who know each other from group therapy. The soldiers, known as the “Loonies,” include suicidal Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), Tourette’s Syndrome victim Baxley (Thomas Jane), wise-cracking Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), enigmatic Lynch (Alfie Allen), and fanatic Nettles (Augusto Aguilera).
For the sake of survival, this motley crew of “Loonies” bands together with McKenna and commandeer the prison bus to head off to McKenna’s home to save Rory. In the getaway, they pick up the terrified Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn). A biologist called to help the government study a captured alien held in a secret bunker, Casey had managed to escape when the sedated creature awoke and killed just about everybody in a bloody rampage. Of course, McKenna’s kid, who figured out the alien code, is placed in serious jeopardy. But one of the funniest scenes is when the Loonies end up at the home of McKenna’s estranged wife (Yvonne Strahovski) to locate Rory and unnerve her with their lunatic banter.
“The Predator,” fittingly enough with Shane Black’s desire not to take things too seriously, goes all-in for over-the-top thrills with a climax so wild on top of the alien spaceship that one can only marvel at the audacity. In the end, “The Predator” is a joyride into thrilling action where the raging battles with the Predator may not be truly suspenseful or frightening but fun nevertheless.
“TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN” ON AMAZON PRIME
Jack Ryan was to author Tom Clancy what James Bond was to Ian Fleming. Both heroes have had a long and successful run in source novels and plenty of cinematic iterations. Now along comes “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” for an eight-episode run on Amazon Prime. Even though both prolific authors are no longer with us, their family estates keep the franchises going, and in most cases, that’s a good thing. The “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” series allows John Krasinski (“The Office”) to bring an everyman quality to the CIA analyst evolved from a desk job to a daring action hero in the hot spots of the Middle East. Krasinski’s Jack Ryan first appears as a mild-mannered drone dwelling in his office cubicle tracking suspicious financial transactions that signal significant terrorist funding operations happening in Yemen.
Following in the footsteps of actors like Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Ben Affleck, Krasinski’s Ryan is similarly tossed into the cauldron of dangerous missions out in the field. The first episode puts Jack Ryan on the spot with an assignment to cross-examine a terrorist, an obligation to which Ryan responds: “I’m an analyst. I don’t interrogate people. I write reports.”Ryan would not have been in this predicament but for having gone behind the back of his superior, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), whose prickly nature is manifested in frequent outbursts. As a former Marine who saw action in Afghanistan, Ryan may be an egghead who enjoys baseball and riding his bike, but he’s the right guy to step up his game.“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” a nice contemporary addition to the franchise, is entertaining and could easily merit a binge-watching turn.