Predator (1987): Get to the Chopper

Cover of "Predator [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Predator [Blu-ray]
What does Arnold Schwarzenegger, an ex 70’s porn star and Jean-Claude Van Damme have in common? Well if you read the title of my review you’ll know the answer already, the film Predator.

Way back in 1987 20th Century Fox gave the green light to a science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was to centre around a group of elite special forces who go into Central America to rescue a cabinet minister who has been captured by guerilla forces. Heading up this elite group is Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) who is not keen on the mission until his old pal Dillon (Carl Weathers) explains the urgency of the situation.

Dutch agrees and his team plus Dillon head for the country where the diplomat is being held hostage. Once they arrive, the team find evidence that someone else has been there before them and that this  ‘other’ team was murdered and hung like animals ready to be butchered. As they head out toward the rebel camp, Dutch’s men are becoming increasingly aware that something is not right.

Arriving at the rebel camp in time to see one of the hostages being executed, Dutch’s team over-run the camp and kill all the rebels but one. Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is taken prisoner at Dillon’s insistence and Dutch calls for extraction from the camp only to be told the area is “too hot” and that they need to move to a safer area.

Dutch who has now realised that Dillon lied to him about the real purpose of the mission puts him in charge of the prisoner. The men re-group and head for the new extraction point, all while they are being observed from a distance via thermal imaging.

Sonny Landham as Billy.

Billy (Sonny Landham) takes point and he becomes increasingly aware that something is not right about the area and that they are not alone in the jungle. While Billy looks for this other inhabitant of the jungle Anna attempts to escape and two of Dutch’s men are killed by an invisible creature. This signifies the shift of focus of the film and it soon becomes a cat and mouse battle between Dutch’s men and the mysterious creature who is killing them off.

This film grossed over 98 million dollars on its theatrical release. It has continued to do well in the home entertainment market. It has spawned a franchise of sequels and prequels that have all done well at the box office.

The film was originally written for Sylvester Stallone, but after Fox got hold of the script and put Joel Silver in charge of production, the rest is history. This film was the first I’d ever seen that shifted genre a third of the way into the film. With Arnie fresh off of Commando and with an initial ‘special forces” set up, it looked to be a sort of Commando II.

Wrong.

Predator is a film that scored quite a few first’s and is well-known for a number of things. Firstly Jean-Claude Van Damme had originally been hired to portray the creature. Unfortunately the original predator suit (pre Stan Winston) was uncomfortable, clumsy and according to Van Damme, not safe to use. He quit after two days and in the interim, according to Van Damme, the guy the studio hired after he quit was injured in the ‘original suit.’

Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator
Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once Stan ‘the man’ Winstone redesigned the suit, the late Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) donned it and despite the fact that he could not see during the one-to-one fights with Arnie did not experience any problems. Incidentally Hall played one of the helicopter pilots at the end of the film, effectively rescuing Arnie from the destruction that Hall himself, as the creature, had caused.

The film marked the screen debut of Jesse Ventura and Shane Black. Ventura would go on to become Governor of Minnesota and Black has just finished the screenplay for Iron Man 3 and is working on Lethal Weapon 5.

The minigun, which had been purposely purchased for use in the film, did not work. More commonly attached to helicopters, the gun was a remnant of the Vietnam war.  It had to be stripped, cleaned and a lot of the parts had to be remade from scratch. Of course further modifications were needed to make the weapon a ‘hand-held’ instead of a mounted gun. The weapon was also powered electrically by battery. The cable ran down Jesse Ventura’s (Blain) leg. It was also modified to use blank rounds and the firing rate had to be slowed down.

Actor Sonny Landham was a porn ‘star’ in the 1970’s and crossed over to mainstream films via a bit part as a cop in The Warriors. A bit of a ‘wild child’ Sonny was well-known for getting into bar fights and having a bit of a temper. The studio brass hired a bodyguard for the set of Predator to protect the cast from Sonny during filming.

It was this film that has Arnie shouting that oft-repeated and mimicked line, “Get to the Choppah!”  If you can’t sound like Arnie when you shout it, you might as well give up. Almost anybody can imitate Arnie when shouting this one.

Just a bit of ‘retro’ reviewing fun and another look at an old favorite film. One that has the distinction of having Jean-Claude Van Damme, a porn star and Arnold Schwarzenegger all together.

Wow.

The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Vent...
The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Ventura, Black, Schwarzenegger, Duke, Weathers, Landham, and Chaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Expendables (2010) Tattooed Tough Guys Getting Ready for # 2

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With The Expendables 2  opening across the UK in August this year, with bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with the news that The Expendables 3 will soon start filming, I’ve decided to take another look at the film that started it all.

The Expendables was directed by Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote the screenplay with  Dave Callaham.

The hook or draw, if you prefer, was the presence in one film of a lot of tough guy actors from the 80’s and 90’s, famous for playing action-type heroes or bigger than life characters.

The list was long. Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, as well as relative newcomers  Jason StathamRandy Couture, Steve Austin,  Terry Crews and of course Arnold and Bruce (in uncredited cameos).

The token females were Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), in what has got to be the worlds shortest cameo, as Stratham’s wishy-washy girlfriend and Giselle Itié is the “love interest” for Stallone’s character.

Stallone and his buddies are mercenaries who, at the start of the film, are rescuing hostages from some Somali pirates.  It is a short scene, designed to show us, the audience, how the group dynamic works and who is really in charge. It also shows us that Dolph Lundgren’s character is not playing with a full deck.

In rapid succession we find that: Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren) is off the team, Lee Christmas (Statham) finds out his girlfriend, now isn’t, and Barney Ross (Stallone) is unhappy with the way his life is going. We also get to meet Tool (Mickey Rourke) the groups tattooist. *on a side note – what a cool name for a character…Tool, just had to mention it.*

English: Mickey Rourke at the 2009 Tribeca Fil...

The guys get hired by Mr Church (Willis) and Ross finds out that his only competition for the job, Trench (Arnie) doesn’t want the job. The group vote on whether to accept the job and Ross and Christmas decide a fact finding mission is in order.This is not a film with great depth or hidden meanings What it does, it does very well. It is an “old fashioned” buddy/action/blockbuster film.

The Expendables is a great big ‘romp’ of a film. It features enough explosions and gunfire to start and win a war in most third world countries. It never at any time takes itself too seriously and it gives us bad guys (Eric Roberts as the supreme bad-ass we love to hate)  who are really bad and his underlings are easy to despise.

Of course the cast list gives us enough bulging muscle that everyone appears to have been vaccinated with steroids at birth. At no time in the film do you ever need to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

But like I said, it is ‘old-fashioned’ the bad guys wear metaphorical black hats, and the good guys with their metaphorical white hats ride in to save the day.

The one disappointment for me was that we didn’t get to see a lot of Jet Li. I am a huge fan, but to be honest, I was not really surprised to see how little he got to do. Hollywood has never really known what to do with Li and it carries over into this film.

I also missed seeing some of the other “80’s and 90’s action men” but that appears to be taken care of in the cast list of The Expendables 2.  The second ‘Expendables’ (in what is apparently becoming a series) will include Jean-Claude Van Damme  , as well as  Chuck Norris.

Charisma Carpenter is coming back for the ride and we can only hope she gets a little more screen time in this one.

Charisma Carpenter at Fan Expo 2007

One thing has been bothering me about the upcoming The Expendables 2. With Chuck Norris on your team surely you don’t need anyone else. Although, he could be batting for the other side, in which case I don’t think Team ‘Expendable’  have enough men.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris