Scenes I Love: Predator “Jungle Shootout”

Predator Jungle Shoot

I recently reviewed John McTiernan’s classic scifi action Predator. It is a film that many kids both young and those young at heart loved watching on the bigscreen. The 1980’s some would consider the golden years of action filmmaking.

It was a decade where action instead of dialogue ruled. Where muscle-bound stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone dominated the box-office. Even with the resurgence and current renaissance of the action film genre, many still reminisce about the action flicks of the 80’s and how they truly didn’t make them like they used to.

If there’s ever a great example of just how over-the-top and testosterone-fueled the action films were of this decade of the 80’s (also known as the decade of excess) then one can’t go wrong with showing the uninitiated the jungle shootout scene from Predator.

One doesn’t need to be into guns to appreciate the majesty of this scene.

Review: Predator (dir. John McTiernan)

Predator 1987

It would be accurate for one to say that Arnold Schwarzenegger was king of the 80’s action flicks. He first burst onto the scene in the titular role in Conan the Barbarian then it’s follow-up sequel. Yet, it would be his role in James Cameron’s The Terminator in 1985 that would make him a household name.

He began to crank out action films after action film every year to varying degrees of success and quality between 1984 and 1987. It would be in the summer of 1987 that he would add a third iconic action film role to stint as Conan the Barbarian and the relentless cybernetic killer, the Terminator.

Maj. Dutch Schaefer in John McTiernan’s action scifi Predator cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger as the most bankable movie star of the 1980’s. The film itself has become a go-to classic whenever film fans of all stripes discuss what were some of the best films of the era. Yes, I do categorize Predator as one of the best to come out of the 1980’s. It does more than hold it’s own when stacked up against Oscar winners, festival darlings and indie cult-favorites.

It’s a film that takes the premise that “man is the most dangerous game” to new levels by adding in a scifi element to the story. That scifi element being an extraterrestrial hunter who comes to Earth every so often to hunt. It’s chosen prey tends to be killers, fighters and soldiers at the top of their craft and usually during times of extreme conflict.

The film, as written by the two brothers John and Jim Thomas, actually works like a slasher horror film in the beginning as Dutch and his team of elite commandos trek through the Central American jungle on a rescue mission. A mission that lands the team in finding the grisly remains of another American special forces team. Questions come up as to whether their CIA liaison (played by Carl Weathers of Rocky and Rocky II fame) knows more about the true nature of their supposed rescue mission than he’s willing to let on.

It’s once the team, still being stalked through the jungle by an unseen predator, finally find the people they’re suppose to rescue that all hell breaks loose in more ways than one. The action is loud, messy and exquisitely choreographed and filmed. Unlike some of the action films of the last ten years, Predator succeeds with it’s action scenes for having a director who uses very long takes and little to no hand-held to keep the action geography easy to follow and the action choreography unencumbered by too many edits and cuts.

Even once the team realizes that they were now being hunted and that whoever, or whatever is hunting them, the film still continues to stay on a creative track. When I mentioned that the film plays out like slasher film, it does in way in that the titular character behaves and moves like slasher killers. It seems to be everywhere and nowhere. The very victims it’s hunting only see it when it’s too late and death’s upon them.

The film’s dialogue has been quoted by so many fans that memes have been created around them. Yet, this doesn’t mean that the film is hilarious. What it does have was that masculine, brother’s-in-arms banter and quips that’s become a sort of signature for screenwriter and director Shane Black who was hired to do some uncredited rewrites on the Thomas Brother’s original script. Black would also end up playing one of the commandos in the film.

Outside of Arnold himself, Predator would be best-known for the effects work by the late and great Stan Winston, who would come in to help redesign the title character (with some help from his buddy James Cameron) and the rest as they would say was film history. It would be difficult to go anywhere around the world, show the Predator to some random person and they not know what it is.

Predator was one of those films that people, at first, thought was just a mindless, popcorn flick. The type of cinema that was to be seen then forgotten for better fare. Yet, in the end, Predator ended up becoming not just a classic of its genre, but a perfect example of a film that transcends it’s genre roots to become just a great film, in general.

A Movie A Day #35: This Was The XFL (2017, directed by Charlie Ebersol)

hhmRemember the XFL?

Though it may be regarded as a joke today, the XFL was a big deal for a few months in 2001.  The brainchild of the WWF’s Vince McMahon, the XFL was a football league that, like the USFL before it, would play during the NFL’s off-season.  McMahon promised that, if the NFL was now the “No Fun League,” the XFL would be the “Extra Fun League.”  McMahon’s longtime friend and the President of NBC sports, Dick Ebersol, purchased the rights to broadcast the XFL’s first two seasons.

Ebersol and McMahon put together the XFL (8 teams and 2 divisions) in just a year’s time.  They recruited players who hadn’t been able to find a place in NFL.  Using many of the same techniques that he perfected in the world of professional wrestling, McMahon encouraged the players to be big personalities and allowed them to pick their own nicknames.  Rod Smart would briefly become a star as He Hate Me while another player requested to be known as Teabagger.  McMahon tweaked the rules, encouraging faster and more aggressive play.  Instead of a coin flip, each game would start with two opposing players scrambling for the ball.  The XFL was not only more violent than the NFL but it also had sexier cheerleaders.


In 2001, I was really excited for the XFL.  It was everything that an 18 year-old male football fan could hope for.  I was one of the 14 million people who watched the very first broadcast.  I watched half of the second broadcast and that was it.  I lost interest and I was not alone.  The XFL started with higher ratings than expected but the final games of that inaugural season set records for being the lowest-rated prime time sports telecasts in history.

What went wrong?  That’s what ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary, This Was The XFL, explains.  Directed by Dick Ebersol’s son, Charlie, This Was The XFL features interviews with McMahon, the senior Ebersol, players like Rod Smart and Tommy Maddox, and sports journalists like Bob Costas.  The XFL’s rise and demise is presented as being a comedy of errors.  Already viewed with skepticism because of McMahon’s unsavory reputation, the XFL was doomed by a combination of terrible luck and bad gameplay that confirmed why many XFL players couldn’t find a place in the NFL.  During the first week, several players were injured during the opening scramble.  In the 2nd week, a power outage interrupted the broadcast of a game in Los Angeles.  With ratings in freefall, McMahon resorted to playing up the cheerleaders and sending Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura onto the field so that he could harass the coaches during the game.  Trying to do damage control, McMahon appeared on The Bob Costas Show and their hostile interview is one of the highlights of the documentary.  Even if the league ultimately failed, it is impossible not to admire McMahon’s determination to shake things up.

The XFL’s first season was also its last but, as This Was The XFL makes clear, its legacy is still evident today.  Miked-up players, the skycam, sideline interviews, all of these are the legacy of the XFL.  Even Jerry Jones, when interviewed, says that the XFL changed the way that NFL football is broadcast.

With this being Super Bowl weekend, take a moment to raise a toast to the memory of the XFL.