'Key Scene' is a new feature series on entertainment.ie where we look at a key scene from movies, how it locks into the overall story, and why it works so well that we're talking about still to this day.
If you're looking at tooling up scenes in action movies of the '80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger knew how to pitch them to directors. You only need to look at 'Commando' with its ridiculous quick-cuts of weaponry, or the weapons store robbery in 'The Terminator'. Yet in 'Predator', Schwarzenegger barely features. Instead, we're introduced to the supporting cast of characters.
The whole thing, of course, is soundtracked by the recently departed Little Richard and his 1956 hit, 'Long Tall Sally' blaring out of a gigantic tapedeck right behind Blaine's ear, as he nods along to himself. The music choice is perfect - it just captures that manic energy, all hyped-up masculinity with a bunch of throwbacks, unwittingly being dropped into a kill box.
In the space of three minutes, we get everything we need to know about the supporting characters of 'Predator' from a few lines of dialogue. Blaine, played by professional wrestler Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, is a tobacco-chewing asshole who has "a real nasty habit" in spitting everywhere. Billy and Hawkins, played by stuntman Sonny Landham and writer Shane Black, are the odd couple of the group. One's a knife-wielding stoic, the other's constantly trying to make terrible jokes and reads comics.
Beyond character introductions, there's also a sense of foreshadowing in how Dylan - played by Carl Weathers - shows off his Vietnam War lighter that he and Dutch both received in 1972, just as they're about to be dropped into another jungle. The failure of the Vietnam War loomed over many action movies of the '80s - 'Lethal Weapon' had Mel Gibson's PTSD-addled cop, 'Aliens' was a whole commentary on the folly of American military intervention, even 'Return of the Jedi' had an indigenous race battling (and defeating) a technologically-superior force.
Like in 'Aliens', what the scene shows is a group of tooled-up soldiers, proudly blasting rock and roll music, ready to unload their weapons onto a jungle with no fear of defeat. You're lured into that sense of machismo-driven confidence because they all appear so calm and almost blasé about what they're about to get themselves in for. They're confident enough to listen to Little Richard, read comics, tell stupid jokes and give each other shit while they travel into a warzone.
Of course, as we know, 'Predator' ends horribly with only one of them coming back from the mission.