5 REASONS why PREDATOR is the MANLIEST movie of all time
A masterpiece of action cinema starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the manliest movie of all time, this is one of the big three famous films of John McTiernan, who, in addition to Predator (1987), was responsible for such classics as Die Hard (1988) (see 8 reasons why EVERYONE loves DIE HARD) and Hunt for Red October (1990). In the 1990s, his career caught a downward spiral (Last Action Hero, The Thirteenth Warrior), the director finally painfully took a pratfall on Rollerball, and in 2013 he ended up behind bars for making false statements to an FBI agent. So much for the director, who, despite his plunging career, deserves great respect and remembrance from cinema goers for his mega hat-trick from 1987-1990.
Predator, a violent action flick bathed in sci-fi sauce and a Mexican-American co-production, scored the second-best (after Beverly Hills Cop II) opening in theaters in 1987, and with a budget of $15 million, earned close to $100 worldwide. Predator cemented Schwarzenegger’s already well-established position in Hollywood at the time, and gave the world the second most famous space monster next to Alien. To this day, by the way, Predator and Alien regularly tiff in movies with VS in the title over which of them is the more howling space predator.
The idea for the film reportedly originated from a joke about another… Rocky sequel, after Balboa defeated the formidable Russian Ivan Drago in part four and was no longer strong on the planet. It was jokingly speculated at the time that Rocky’s next opponent might be E.T. Someone in Hollywood picked up on this irrational theme, but decided to let into one ring not Balboa and the cosmic curmudgeon what to phone home, but the big as 150 motherfuckers fighter from outer space and Champion of the Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently, originally Arnold was supposed to play the main and only fiddle in the film’s clash with the monster, but the man himself decided it was a bad idea, and, taking his cue from the classic Magnificent Seven, he went into the jungle accompanied by six brave amigos.
McTiernan’s film is so testosterone-infused (Dillon’s epic handshake with Dutch), so hard-hitting (Hawkins’ rude jokes), brutal (the shot-off arm pressing his finger on the rifle trigger), bloody (skinned human corpses) and iconic (flight of helicopters to the tune of Long Tall Sally sweeps and sets the stage for the coming battle) in the best meaning of the word, that all its sequels can at best stand politely in its shadow and bask in the glow of its awesomeness. It remains an insider’s secret that Arnold was the main and biggest star of the Predator film, and not some alien, which is why Predator sequels with Predator(s), and even with jungle or Alan Silvestri’s music, but without Arnold, had no chance to match the original’s navel.
Well, that’s right, I mentioned Alan Silvestri’s score, and it did a fantastic job of building the tension and drama of McTiernan’s film, sounding so energetic, powerful and grim, as if the conductor was some kind of a pumped-up macho, waving a big knife instead of a baton to make the musicians collapse with full power and commitment to their instruments. The music in Predator thus contributes enormously to the plot and is so epic that it sometimes seems to overwhelm the action, although in the famous jungle clearing sequence, when Mac starts firing his minigun, the music quiets down and gives way to the sound of powerful weapons. Also, the location of the action was worthy of the real tough guys, because the Mexican jungle (and the director insisted on shooting exclusively in the field) as the location of the shooting crew’s several-week stay, was not one of the most comfortable places.
After all, in addition to fighting the predator, the actors and crew had to face such earthly monsters as leeches and snakes, endure the heat and humidity, the heat and the inconvenience of uneven terrain. The night scenes, on the other hand, were shot during cold temperatures, which was particularly strenuous for Arnold Schwarzenegger when the mud he had to wear (it was actually ceramic clay) became wet and cold. He was warned that this would lower his body temperature by several degrees, and the actor shuddered incessantly, even when attempts were made to warm him with lamps, which only made the clay he was covered with dry out. Apparently, attempts were made to warm up the actor with something stronger, but apparently instead of warming up, he only got drunk.
However, Arnold was so involved in the production of the film that he not only endured all the inconveniences, but even forgot about the wedding rehearsal ceremony, and at the wedding itself to Maria Shriver, he necessarily appeared, instead of in his initial hairstyle, in a military short-cut hairstyle straight from the Predator set. Before we get to the 5 reasons why Predator is the most masculine film of all time, just a little more statistics, the film’s Body Count, and that was sixty-nine people (most at the hands of Dutch and quite a few from Predator’s paws), one scorpion, one boar and one predator.
REASON 1: Arnold & Magnificent Six
Schwarzenegger in his prime time, having already scored such hits as The Terminator, two Conans, Raw Deal and Commando, in 1986 he already enjoyed mega-star status in Hollywood. So big, in fact, that his compulsive cigar smoking was written into the character of Dutch in the film, so that the actor could smoke freely even while shooting. The 1980s, by the way, were the best period for screen muscle men, who mastered mainstream action cinema (Stallone, Lundgren, JCVD). In Predator, alongside Arnold, the perfect physique was boasted by Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky series) and Jesse Ventura – a former Navy Seals member making his film debut. But it’s not about the size of the biceps here, but about the characters, toughness and hardiness of our heroes. So on the agenda here are razors broken on their faces (a scene improvised by Bill Duke), no time to bleed (Blain), hands-made traps made of tree trunks and self-woven ropes, self-made bows piercing massive trees, and, well, a bare-knuckle duel between Billy and Predator, which was so brutal that we weren’t even given to see why the big Indian was screaming so much, though certainly not from joy.
As rumor has it, the insurance company reportedly placed a condition that it would only insure the set if a bodyguard was assigned to Sonny Landham (playing Billy) to protect the other crew members from… Sonny Landham, known for his impulsive character and propensity to start fights. On the other hand, Richard Chaves, who played the unassuming character Poncho, had three years spent in the Vietnam War. Such was the crew of tough guys, here no one was slurring or complaining, neither the brave woman who accompanied our brave men, nor the aforementioned Poncho, who got hit in the gut with a big tree, and yet stayed on his feet until the end (his, not the film’s). The badassness of the whole thing was topped off by the sexual tyrannosaur calling himself the aforementioned Jesse Ventura passionately chewing tobacco, though he might as well have just been chewing his defeated enemies. And all culminating in a nuclear explosion, which Arnold survives (not chewing, no exaggeration) only slightly dusty, and without resorting to hiding in the refrigerator. Besides, already when we saw the first shot with Arnold on the loose smoking a cigar in the helicopter, it was clear that the titular predator is fucked, and it’s not Dutch’s squad that will be locked in the jungle with the alien, but the alien will be stuck there with Dutch, who will fuck him up with his bare hands, and before that himself with mud.
Already in the first minutes of the film, when we get to know the characters and cut tongues of the drama’s protagonists during the helicopter flight to the scene, we know what kind of a bunch of tough guys we are dealing with. John McTiernan wanted to make the relationships between the actors, not all of whom had military training behind them, as realistic as possible. The cast trained together in the field with weapons, in a military regime that began at 6 a.m. each day. They also practiced the silent hand signals seen in the film. This gave everyone a chance to get to know each other and develop as a close-knit group of killers. The muscular tough guys in McTiernan’s film could additionally have been joined by Jean Claude Van Damme, who was supposed to play the Predator, but it was rumored that the alien costume, which was originally supposed to have two joints in his legs and a big rubber head with feelers dangling from a long neck, moved like a dancing lobster and nothing came of it, because Predator was not supposed to be a comedy. Probably, however, the real reason for JCVD’s departure was that the film stock couldn’t handle such a huge concentration of testerone (half the space was occupied by Jesse Ventura himself), so one muscle man had to be dropped. The Predator was finally played by Kevin Peter Hall, who measures an impressive 2.20m (who we also see in the film’s final scene, as a helicopter pilot).
The members of Dutch’s squad, ex equo with the protagonists of the year older Aliens by Cameron, remain to this day a collection of originals unsurpassed for their cutting language, character diversity, and chemistry between characters and actors, and thus the cosseting of the entire team. The epicness of Predator is already summed up by a brief, unassuming shot from the beginning of the film, when Dutch greets Dillon via a rock-crushing handshake that transitions into a brief arm wrestle, with the emphasis on the advantage and prominence of Schwarzenegger’s impressive biceps. The shot is experiencing a real renaissance today as an Internet meme.
REASON 2: Guns, lot of guns!
The big men are accompanied by suitably jacked-up weapons, with suitably large caliber. Surprisingly, Arnold, as the main character, doesn’t have the biggest gun in his hands at all, but only a standard M16 AR-15 / SP1 rifle, however, equipped for the purposes of the film with an M203 launcher, which makes the whole thing look more original and menacing than the factory M16. Interestingly, the launcher mounted to Arnold’s rifle is the same one used by Al Pacino with his powdered nose on the set of Scarface. There, however, it was hooked up to another copy of the M16 – Tony Montana’s memorable Little Friend. Billy’s M16/SP1 was similarly converted, only instead of a launcher, the film’s gunsmiths had cobbled together a Mossberg 500 shotgun under its barrel, with a trigger independent of the rifle.
The rest of the team had at their disposal, among others, the standard M60 rifle (Mac), the Heckler & Koch HK94 (Poncho, Hawkins, Dillon), and the powerful AN/M5 Pyrotechnic Discharger – 37mm grenade launcher, also tweaked for the film (Poncho). The biggest miscreant, however, was wielded by Blain, and we’re talking about the M134 cannon fondly called a minigun, or as Blain titled it – Old Painless. Conducting fire from the mare, which weighs twenty kilograms (plus heck knows how much a backpack with ammunition on the belt weighs), Jesse Ventura compared to shooting with… a power saw! This six-barrel doomsday machine doesn’t exist in a mobile version, no infantryman would be able to lug it around the battlefield, where in addition it’s hard to find… an electrical outlet. Yes, miniguns need an external power source: electric, hydraulic or pneumatic. On the set of the film, the cable powering this marvel was hidden in Jesse Ventura’s leg. The minigun was specially adapted for manual use on the set of Predator. Rifles of this ilk, in their natural habitat are found only on special racks in the doors of Black Hawk helicopters, among others, or on the decks of aircraft carriers.
For the purposes of the film (we’re still scrambling with miniguns), the number of revolutions of the barrel was reduced by 1/3, so that the camera would have a chance to record the fact of its rotation at all – originally it was from 2000 to 4000 revolutions per minute, which directly meant the number of bullets fired in that time. Generally speaking, even if Blain actually had the strength to carry this motherfucker through the jungle, it would have taken out all the ammunition in half a minute of continuous fire, such is the speed of this cattle. Arnold Schwarzenegger got a similar minigun in his own paws only four years later, on the set of Terminator 2, but – sorry Arnie – he wielded it far less spectacularly than his Predator set mate. While Ventura wielded the biggest giraffe, Arnold undividedly wielded the biggest biceps on the set, and Sony Landham, in turn, was the owner of the biggest knife, with an overall length of nearly half a meter, of which the blade itself occupied 37 centimeters. Quite recently Arnold compared this half-meter colossus with Rambo’s knife, mocking Stallone’s pocket knife. And indeed, John Rambo’s knife could at most be used to peel apples, while Billy’s scythe can be used to skin coconuts. (I found information about the weapon used in Predator at imfdb.org)
REASON 3: Jungle grubbing
When it comes to gunfire cinema, only the tantrum from The Tremors, when a married couple of militarists fire on a monster that has invaded their underground shelter, can compare in intensity, multiplicity of weapons, amount of ammunition fired, and noise, with the iconic jungle clearing sequence from Predator. The scene in which Dutch’s entire squad heats up ahead with everything at hand is, along with Arnold and the title character, the calling card of McTiernan’s film. One can only wonder why a squad of well-trained commandos mindlessly blows away almost all of their ammunition while shelling trees. But pour over such details, because this irrational chaffing and other exchanges of fire from Predator, you watch every time with a banana on your face. And I’m afraid I’ll run out of bananas at some point during the screening.
In general, Predator stands for fantastic exchanges of fire, the whole skirmish with the guerrillas is, after all, a real battlefield with masses of explosions and capital stunts. Well, and it is worth mentioning here once again the six-barrel doomsday machine used by Blain. Every entrance of this weapon in front of the camera, and especially the moment when Blain, with the explosion behind him, spits behind him with what he has just chewed, and begins to make tartar out of his enemies, is a joy unearthly to me. And for dessert, like a banana on the cake, the brilliantly staged final shotgun blast we see in Predator, which is Arnold screaming Ruuun! and bludgeoning a tree with his M16 with a remarkably fiery series.