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Poorly written 'The Predator' packs action punch

Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service

In the latest incarnation in the "Predator" franchise, it's Predator vs. The A-Team.

It's not actually the guys who drove around in a van during the '80s righting wrongs, but the screenwriter Fred Dekker ("RoboCop 3") and director Shane Black ("Iron Man 3") put together a group of characters who come to save the day (and add comic relief) while dealing with a variety of personal problems. Pity the fool who doesn't see the passing resemblance to the guys from the television series.

From left, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key, Thomas Jane and Augusto Aguiliera in "The Predator." The movie is playing at Regal West Manchester Stadium 13, Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13 and R/C Hanover Movies.

There's nothing wrong with some levity, as the franchise has tended to lean more toward the serious. The use of comedy is just a symptom of the biggest problem with the production: the script.

"The Predator" starts with a reasonably smart concept. A hunter from another world lands on Earth and is captured by a super-secret military group under the direction of the overly confident Traeger (Sterling K. Brown). When an anomaly is discovered in the Predator's biological makeup, Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is called in to offer her expertise.

At the same time, good sniper/bad dad Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on his way to being quieted so he won't be able to talk about his close encounter with the Predator.

The two worlds collide and the majority of the movie is either the team running for their lives or trying to figure out a way to stop the alien attack.

If the film was to be evaluated on action alone, it would get high marks, as there is little respite from the carnage the Predator brings. The explosions are big, the gun battles relentless and the alien technology out-of-this-world cool.

Olivia Munn, left, and Jacob Tremblay star in  "The Predator." The movie is playing at Regal West Manchester Stadium 13, Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13 and R/C Hanover Movies.

But if you are looking for intelligence in the story, the disappointments are plentiful. It's sad the overall script is so lacking because there are a few glimmers of brilliance. There's both a nod to the original film with a classic line of dialogue and several connections to other Predator tales over the years.

Many of the biggest mistakes are with the character played by Munn. There's no explanation given as to how Bracket goes from a scientist to a killing machine in a blink. She's surrounded by trained military personnel but ends up being a far better shot and more of a killer than any of them. The only thing more prevalent than the blunders with her character are the lines she's forced to say. A little more thought would have made her role far more textured.

Dekker and Black act as if the audience isn't going to notice big miscues like how the group of soldiers from the mental ward can blow up a school and no one notices, where they are able to get their hands on an RV loaded with guns and how the geography of the story changes to fit the situation. The most stunning is how Munn's character ends up in a major battle within a few minutes despite being miles away at the start.

Then there's the A-Team vibe. Each member of the military team that takes on the creature is a poorly formed stereotype. Keegan-Michael Key's character tells adult jokes, while Thomas Jane's role is to say vulgar things. There's a member of the team who's handy, another who chain smokes and one who sees everything in biblical terms. Not one of them hits an original note.

In the end, "The Predator" is a killer when it comes to action. But, when it comes to the script, it's just dead on arrival.

2 stars
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes.
Director: Shane Black.
Rated: R for language, war images, graphic violence.
Running time: 108 minutes.