Impressive characters battle across futuristic landscape PREDATOR 2

November 21, 1990|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

'Predator 2'

Starring Danny Glover.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins.

Released by the 20th-Century Fox.

Rated R.

*** "Predator 2" has to be one of the champion, all-time hubbub movies. Each scene seems crammed with extraneous information, noise, crowd movement, gunfire, smoke, heat, gore and hostility. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, busy, busy, busy.

The movie isn't bad, either, if your idea of a good time is to get mulched, pulped and pummeled for about two hours. Only nominally related to "Predator" the original, this film takes place in a melting-down, post-Ozone collapsed Los Angeles of seven yearshence, where the temp regularly breaks the 105 mark, coke-crazed Latino drug gangs have turned the city into Sunday afternoon in Beirut seven days a week, and the cops are struggling with the usual weenie liberal do-gooders to stay up with the bad guys.

And who should march into town but the baddest dude of them all, a 7-foot tall, invisible bug-monster from outer space with fishhooks for lips who is clearly a member of the Remulac chapter of the NRA. It's opening day of human season; this guy wants heads to hang on the wall over the fireplace.

So the movie is a manhunt set amid the theme park of a decaying civilization. What it lacks in originality (a lot), it somewhat makes up for in extremely convincing special effects and and extremely able cast. The great Arnold isn't around to blast aside trees, bend steel with his bare hands and issue droll Hun witticisms, but Danny Glover, as Police Sgt. Mike Hartigan, does yeoman's work as the head stud fighting for the human race. Glover isn't Superman or Superschwarzenegger; he's just a guy with a job to do, an attitude, and a lot of problems.

Others on the team are equally impressive -- I particularly like wise-guy Bill Paxton, a staple in these movies, as one of the cops; and Gary Busey has a nice turn as the de rigueur federal operative who knows what's going on and why, but won't share it with the local coppers. (There's a bit of a movie in-joke here: In a sense this movie is a kind of "E.T. from Hell" -- Busey's character's name is Peter Keyes, and he occupies the same place in the feder al hierarchy as the character Keys in Spielberg's "E.T.," who was played by Peter Coyote.)

The film is directed by Stephen Hopkins, a young Englishman, but its true author has to be action schlockmeister Joel Silver, who produced the original "Predator," as well as such action hits as "48HRS.," "Commando," "Red Heat," "Action Jackson" and both the "Die Hards." The Silver formula may be summed up as followed: an action sequence every 10 minutes, whether the movie needs it or not.

In fact, the film would be a bit better if a few of them had been trimmed. Hopkins has an eye for frenzy but not one for clarity; a lot of the action is so garbled it's hard to follow, particularly a shootout on a subway train that has suddenly been invaded by the Great Blight Hunter -- shot through the strobing lights of the moving train, the action has a sense of pure abstraction to it; you can't tell the corpses without a score card.

Better by far is the sense of milieu: This isn't the elaborate dystopia, say, of Ridley Scott's epochal "Blade Runner," but it's nevertheless a convincing urban hell, projected just a bit from the hells of today. (You can tell it's the future; all the cops have laser sights on their guns, not that they ever use them.)

But best by far is Mr. Hooklips. Think of Chewbacca on PCP or the Creature from the Black Lagoon after a month on the Pritikin diet. This guy is scary when you can see him and even scarier when you can't, where a brilliant photographic effect suggests his presence by a jumble of bent lightwaves in his rough configuration.

In a curious way, "Predator 2" demands more respect than affection -- it's thoroughly professional, it knows what it wants to do, and without a lot of hemming and hawing, it does it.

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