Ruben Blades

Predator 2 (1990, Stephen Hopkins)

Predator 2 is a great looking movie all because of director Hopkins. Early in the movie, right after a heavily Robocop influenced shoot-out (the whole first hour is nothing but a Robocop rip), Danny Glover’s up on a roof with the LA skyline behind him. Hopkins and cinematographer Peter Levy turn the shot sequence–it probably lasts thirty-five seconds–into a beautifully simple cinematic moment. It just looks perfect. There are quiet a few of these perfect moments in the film, which is probably why Predator 2 gets away with being so lame.

The first hour is wasted with supercop Glover and his team of bad actors (Rubén Blades is actually just mediocre, but Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton are terrible) chasing the Predator. While I can understand the reasoning behind hiding the Predator for the first hour–for those unfamiliar with the first film–it’s absurdly unnecessary. Killer aliens are a sci-fi standard. Actually, it was probably budgetary. Anyway, Hopkins compensates with some good angry cops fighting against oblivious superiors shots and giving the whole first hour a horror feel. It’s cheap and deceptive, but he makes up for it in the end.

Predator 2 ends with a lengthy–around twenty minute–chase scene. Thirty minutes if you disregard a six minute break for Glover to find out all about the first movie (you’d think he would have seen it).

While Glover’s good in the leading role, the script’s so bad–he’s constantly making heated, macho movie man observations–there’s little he can do with it. His best scenes are the ones where some subtext is implied (given the movie has none). Producer Joel Silver opened his regular acting stable out for Predator 2–Gary Busey, Robert Davi and Steve Kahan–and, along with Glover, it feels like an attempt to remind people of Lethal Weapon.

Busey’s awful, no surprise, but the terrible supporting cast is a little bewildering. They should have been able to hire some decent character actors–Kent McCord is particularly bad and Adam Baldwin is laughable. Any movie where Morton Downey Jr. gives one of the better performances is trouble.

But those last twenty minutes make up for everything. It’s a chase scene across rooftops, beautifully directed. Hopkins really doesn’t get enough credit. The conclusion–with the various money shots (a dozen additional Predators)–is idiotic (what were all these other Predators doing while the main one was out hunting, watching Maury Povich?), but it looks kind of cool and Predator 2 doesn’t encourage any thoughtful consideration. In fact, it strives not to encourage that sort of thing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Peter Levy; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Bert Lovitt; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Lawrence G. Paull; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Danny Glover (Harrigan), Gary Busey (Keyes), Rubén Blades (Danny), Maria Conchita Alonso (Leona), Bill Paxton (Lambert), Robert Davi (Captain Heinemann), Adam Baldwin (Garber), Kent McCord (Captain Pilgrim), Morton Downey Jr. (Tony Pope), Calvin Lockhart (King Willie) and Kevin Peter Hall (The Predator).


Q & A (1990, Sidney Lumet)

Sidney Lumet’s awkward examination of political corruption and race in New York City hits some bumps it shouldn’t. One of the major problems–because the film, after all the minor problems, only has two major problems–is the ending. Lumet has a perfectly well-intentioned ending, but he doesn’t quite get it. There’s not enough groundwork for it in the film itself, just a few scenes and they really don’t add up to what the ending needs. The second major problem is the music by Rubén Blades. Not the score, the score is actually all right. But Blades–and Lumet, because I don’t see Blades listed as the producer or the executive–has a theme song for Q & A. Not surprisingly (the score is actually rather sparse and well-used throughout, mostly Lumet relies on a beautiful sound design, wind, rain and traffic), there’s no soundtrack release, but if there had been, I really think it would have been listed as “Don’t Double-Cross the Ones You Love (Theme to Q & A).” It’s a dreadful mistake.

The minor mistakes thrive. While Nick Nolte gives a scary performance as a dirty, bigoted cop, all he’s doing is giving a performance as a dirty, bigoted cop. He put on a bunch of weight for the role, but the weight doesn’t act for him. Timothy Hutton’s pretty good as a wide-eyed idealist, even maintains a hint of an Irish accent throughout, but the movie’s not enough about him. It starts about him, then it splits between Nolte and Armand Assante. Whereas Hutton and Assante make an interesting juxtaposition (with Jenny Lumet forming a love triangle), because of all the energy put into following Nolte, the juxtaposition never comes through. It gets hinted at, but never explored.

Assante’s performance is fantastic, the kind of flashy but substantive performance he should get credit for achieving. As a director’s daughter acting in a mob movie, Lumet does a really good job. Her character’s a lot more complicated than the movie ever gets around to examining, another mistake. The supporting cast is all excellent. Charles S. Dutton and Luis Guzmán, both great and they work beautifully together. But they get left out when the movie balloons too. As elder statesmen of varying morality but similar weariness, both Patrick O’Neal and Lee Richardson are good.

Lumet lets Q & A get way too big without ever making it absorbing. It’s a 132 minutes and it feels like them. It’s never mundane, it’s never boring, but the lack of a central protagonist and the mishmash of theses encourage detachment in the viewer, which is rather unfortunate. Q & A has all the ingredients for excellence and it’s very good; the missteps–particularly not getting the ending just right–hurt it.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sidney Lumet; screenplay by Lumet, based on the novel by Edwin Torres; director of photography, Andrzej Bartkowiak; edited by Richard Cirincione; music by Ruben Blades; production designer, Philip Rosenberg; produced by Arnon Milchan and Burtt Harris; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Nick Nolte (Brennan), Timothy Hutton (Al Reilly), Armand Assante (Bobby Tex), Patrick O’Neal (Kevin Quinn), Lee Richardson (Leo Bloomenfeld), Luis Guzmán (Valentin), Charles S. Dutton (Chappie), Jenny Lumet (Nancy), Paul Calderon (Roger Montalvo), International Chrysis (José Malpica), Dominic Chianese (Larry Pesch), Leonardo Cimino (Nick Petrone) and Fyvush Finkel (Preston Pearlstein).


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