Predator Trilogy review (Blu-ray)

Crime author Bernard O'Mahoney's telling of the true story of the December 1995 triple murder in Rettendon, Essex has been the subject of three feature films in the last decade, ever since the publication of his book Essex Boys in 2000, the title of which became the first of the three movies. Rise of the Footsoldier followed in 2007, and now we have Bonded by Blood, again based on a book of the same name by O'Mahoney.

Predator (1987) ?????
Action films haven't been the same since Arnie gave up the movie biz and went into politics. Try as they might, Jason Statham and Vin Diesel really don't stack up against the old-school likes of Bruce WIllis, Sly Stallone and, yes, the big daddy of them all, Schwarzenegger.

Some consider Predator to be the best action film ever made. While I wouldn't go quite that far, it's certainly up there in the top 10 ... and it's also one of my favourite films of all time. It easily ticks all the right boxes – a simple plot, big beefy men with big beefy guns, some cracking one-liners and plenty of blood and gore. And speaking of the plot: Dutch (Arnie) and his team of commandos are sent on a mission to a South American jungle to rescue some missing dignitaries. Instead, they end up being hunted by an alien. And, err, that's it.

But it's not, really. Even after multiple viewings, Predator still manages to be tense, exciting and surprising. It's easily one of big Arnie's best films – it certainly helped to cement his place on the Hollywood map – and Weathers (best know as Apollo Creed in three Rocky films) has not done anything half as good since. It's big, it's loud and incredibly well-paced. And to top it all off, it's got one of the best movie villians ever created – the Predator himself, a marvellous piece of design from special effects supremo Stan Winston. Sadly, the sequel and Alien vs Predator spinoffs have all been terrible. It's true to say that they just don't make them like this any more.

Predator 2 (1990)

Rise of the Footsoldier, all three films lead up to the same climax of the actual historic murders and so it makes you wonder if this production was really necessary, especially in such close proximity to the others. Still, it's surprisingly good. The recent spate of British gangster movies, especially those made independently, has, let's say, produced a lot more bronze than gold. Seeing all these Danny Dyer-starring clones on the new releases shelf in the shops is getting extremely tedious, and so this incarnation of low-budget British film-making is refreshingly decent.

Although it's hard to like the characters you're supposed to, on the flipside it's incredibly easy to hate on the antagonists, especially Tate. The central characters are all strongly defined and have a stellar cast to support the quality of writing that has shaped them, even if just about every word that comes out of their mouths are four letters long and begin with either C or F.

Predators (2010) ???½
While I enjoyed Predators, the biggest problem with the film is its similarity to the original. It's extremely well made, and it's nice to see the Predators being played by blokes in rubber suits rather than a bunch of pixels from a computer. The pacing is perfect, and there are some truly terrific action scenes. But it completely lacks any surprise or originality. It brings nothing fresh or new to the Predator universe, and that to me smacks of a missed opportunity. Every step of the way, I knew just where the plot was heading. And there are some scenes, and dialogue, that are lifted straight from the first film. Don't get me wrong – it's hugely entertaining, and is a perfect summer popcorn movie, which is why it gets three stars. But I can't see this one having the staying power of big Arnie's outing.


EXTRAS Predator ????? It's not the first time Predator has been released on Blu-ray, but the 2008 edition suffered from a lack of extras, and a poor transfer to high definition. This Ultimate Edition goes some way to rectifying that. While the transfer is still not perfect, it's a lot better than the 2008 Blu-ray, or the prior DVD release. For most of the film, the picture is beautifully sharp, crisp and detailed. But where this really stands out is in the bonus material. Apart from the trailers and promos for the new Predators film, there's also: an audio commentary by director McTiernan; a 28-minute making-of featurette called If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It; another behind-the-scenes featurette, called Predator: Evolution of the Speicies (11 minutes); a text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld; yet another behind-the-scenes featurette, Inside the Predator; a look at the special effects; deleted Scenes and outakes; the theatrical trailers for Predator and Predator 2; a photo gallery; and a slideshow Predator Profile.`Predator 2 ??? The second film in the trilogy is supplemented with two audio commentaries, one with director Stephen Hopkins and another with screenwriting siblings, Jim and John Thomas; The Hunters and the Hunted: a 35-minute making-of feature; Evolutions: a look at three different shots in various stages of post-production; Weapons of Choice: the arsenal of the Predator; Hard Core Segments: the complete cuts of the news broadcasts from the film; a promotional gallery; and a Fox UK weblink (on a Blu-ray?).Predators ???½ An audio commentary from producer Robert Rodriguez and director Antal; "prequel vignettes", presented as motion comics; Evolution of The Species: Predator Reborn, a series of making-of featurettes (40 minutes in all); Making a Scene feaurette (7 minutes); The Chosen featurette, whihc introduces all the characters (4 minutes); nine deleted and extended scenes. Plus, being a Triple Play Edition, you also get a DVD and digital copy of the film.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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