Big Arnie stars (in the film which more or less established him as a superstar) as Major “Dutch” Schaefer, the leader of an elite special forces team searching the Central American jungle for a presidential cabinet minister and aide who were kidnapped by guerrillas.
And what a team: Dutch is backed up by silent killer Mac (Bill Duke) and the preposterously macho Blain (wrestling star Jesse Ventura) who has a terrifying M134 minigun the size of a cannon and says things like “I don’t have time to bleed” when he’s been shot.
Richard Chaves is “Poncho” Ramirez, their Chicano scout, translator and sharpshooter and Sonny Landham (what a fantastic voice) is Native American tracker and jungle expert Billy.
Dillon (Apollo Creed himself, Carl Weathers) is a former colleague of Dutch and now a somewhat mysterious CIA agent. The team are forced to take Dillon with them despite not trusting him at all. Completing the team is Hawkins (Shane Black), the bespectacled radio operator and joke dispenser.
The team find the shattered wreckage of a helicopter and some skinned bodies hung from trees which they identify from nearby blood-stained name tags as Green Berets. This grisly sight angers them greatly and they lay waste to a guerilla camp – only sparing a woman named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) who they take with them.
Dutch begins to realise they have been pawns in a clandestine CIA operation and is eager to get them all to their extraction point and get out of the jungle as soon as possible. But they are not alone and their real troubles have only just begun . . .
A formidable and ruthless seven-foot alien with an ornate tribal appearance, dreadlocks and armoured masks is observing them from the trees. Armed with heat vision, camouflage technology that makes it invisible, and advanced futuristic weapons, the alien hunts humans for sport – and it can speak English better than Arnie!
The Predator begins to stealthily pick off the team one by one in gruesome fashion as the jungle paranoia increases.
Anna tells them; “When I was little we found a man. He looked like . . . butchered. The old women in the village crossed themselves and whispered crazy things, strange things. El Diablo cazador de hombres. Only in the hottest years, this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins . . . and sometimes much, much worse. El cazador trofeo de los hombres means the demon who makes trophies of men!”
People are disembowelled, arms severed, chests blown out, people shot, and the Predator actually mutilates the bodies of his victims and keeps their skulls as a trophy.
As with Aliens (1986), much of the fun comes from watching a bunch of macho soldiers crack under pressure. And Predator contains some of Arnie’s best one-liners (“if it bleeds we can kill it”).
Director John McTiernan ensures the tension is kept at snapping point and he’s helped no end by the sci-fi gimmick of the “cloaking” device that keeps the Predator hidden from view.
In one of the finest closing scenes of any sci-fi movie, the downed alien glares at a mud-streaked Schwarzenegger – who’s just spared it a final blow at the last minute – and asks “What the hell are you?”
Flipping open its wrist computer, the fallen hunter triggers a sound that builds into a buzzing crescendo. As Schwarzenegger looks on, the creature begins to shudder in grim mimicry of Billy’s belly laugh, howling its delight at the impending devastation.
It’s the ultimate “fuck you” from a formerly unstoppable foe.
This smash-hit propelled McTiernan onto the Hollywood A-list, a position he consolidated with Die Hard (1988).
Major Alan “Dutch” Schaeffer
R G Armstrong
Kevin Peter Hall