PREDATOR Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray Review

     August 8, 2010

“You’re ghostin’ us, motherfucker. I don’t care who you are back in the world, you give away our position one more time, I’ll bleed ya, real quiet. Leave ya here. Got that?” Watching Predator again it’s always amazing how much of the film is intensely quotable. But perhaps it’s that if you were alive and near a playground, twelve year old boys ate this film up, and watched it repeatedly on HBO. The film is about  a bunch of tough hombres (including Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Shane Black, Sonny Landham, and Carl Weathers) headed up by Arnold Schwarzenegger who are sent into the Latin America jungles to rescue some hostages, but end up being targeted by an alien who’s come to the jungle to hunt men. It’s a simple premise, precisely executed by John McTiernan, and has become an action classic since release. My review of the new and controversial Blu-ray edition of Predator (labeled the Ultimate Hunter Edition) after the jump.

Arnie plays Dutch, a leader of an elite team of commandos. I wonder – since Schwarzenegger is obviously not an American – if these guys are meant to be the proto-Blackwater. My assumption, since they are working with Americans, that they are actually a part of the American military industrial complex and we are not supposed to think about it. Carl Weathers plays Dillon, the sketchy CIA operative who tags along and knows that what they’re doing behind the border isn’t right. Then there’s Dutch’s crew: the nerd Hawkins (Shane Black), the quiet one Poncho (Richard Chaves), the Indian Billy (Sonny Landam), the macho asshole Blain (Jesse Ventura), and the silent killer Mac (Bill Duke). The film starts as more of an action movie and it delivers a fine siege sequence where it shows the proficiency of the men. They end up taking Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) hostage hoping to get some valuable information. But then the Predator starts hunting them and one by one the men start dying. This leads to the greatest “men shooting guns at nothing” sequence in the history of cinema.

What McTiernan does is really smart, as the first third of the movie functions as a an action film, but then it segues into horror/Ten Little Indians territory as the men are picked off. Then the final third is the man against alien fight that is played with very little dialog (much of it consists of “You’re one ugly motherfucker!”) And one of the great things about McTiernan is he knows set up/pay off well enough that this final sequence is paced well enough, but the film earns a little time-taking. Some have complained that the film is poorly paced, but the film is a relatively lean 107 minutes, and features no bloat.

On some level it’s hard for me to judge this film as it’s become mother’s milk, and with the film’s perpetual double dipping on DVD and now Blu-ray, I think I’ve watched the film once a year unintentionally by the very nature of its perennial reissuing. One of the things I love about the film is Bill Duke’s marvelous performance. It’s very large, but it’s perfect for this sort of film. It’s the exact opposite of James Coburn’s silent gunman in The Magnificent Seven, but just as ingenious. He goes from being a stone-face killer to someone completely out of their mind with vengeance. But damn if it doesn’t play, and damn if this movie isn’t still a good deal of fun to watch.

This Blu-ray has fallen under some controversy, much as the original Fox Blu-ray. The first version looked like a slightly upgraded DVD transfer, and featured no real supplements. Like a lot of DVD early editions, it smelled like a stop gap/rip off release as there was already a two disc special edition DVD of the film, and so the lack of any supplements (especially with a $35 price tag) felt like robbery. For the new version, the film was digitally cleaned up, and because of the stock of film used, the cleaning gives everything a shinier and plastic like look. The original version looks more filmic. This is cleaner but the cleaning is so pronounced it can be distracting

That noted everything else is spot on. The soundtrack is an excellent DTS-HD 5.1 surround, and the picture is appropriately widescreen (1.78:1). And of course, there are all the extras from the last release, and a preview of the spin-off/remake/reboot/sequel Predators. First is a sneak peak of the new film (2 min.), and then “Predator: Evolution of a Species: Hunters of Extreme Perfection” (11 min.) which has producer John Davis and Robert Rodriguez speaking about the original and the remake. That’s the new. For the old there’s the John McTiernan commentary track, along with text commentary by Eric Lichtenfeld. Both are excellent, and well matched by the making of “If it Bleeds We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator” (29 min.) with then-new interviews with Shane Black, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, John McTiernan  and John Davis, and period interviews with the writers, and most of the rest of the cast, and some of the crew. “Inside the Predator” (31 min.) which offer extended riffs on certain elements of the film (Arnold, Predator Kevin Peter Hall, the make-up, etc.) compliments the making of. There’s two sections in Special effects, one dedicated to red suit used to create the invisible predator (2 min.), and the second to “Camouflage tests” (2 min.). “Short Takes (10 min.) offers four smallish anecdotes that are tangential to the film, but are nevertheless fascinating. There are also four deleted scenes and outtakes (5 min.) none of which add much. There’s a trailer for the film and Predator 2, a photo gallery (which features a photo of the briefly-cast Jean Claude Van Damme as the predator), and a “predator profile” still gallery.

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