After exploding into the public consciousness playing the virtually indestructible cyborg assassin in James Cameron's breakout 1984 film "The Terminator" Arnold Schwarzenegger retreated to his comfort zone, playing the hero in such 80s yawners as "Red Sonja" and "Raw Deal". But just when it seemed safe to deposit him squarely into the 'one hit wonder' category along came 1987's "Predator".

It has to be noted that while all male-buddy action flicks have their share of gay undertones, Predator may be the most overtly gay action movie ever made (not that there's anything wrong with that). Still, if you can look past its bulging homoerotic musculature (if you want or need to look past it) and concentrate solely on the window dressing the film can be enjoyed as a taut, intense sci-fi thriller with an unlikely and truly menacing baddie who's cleverly introduced and gradually takes over the narrative, sending the film in an unexpected and gratifying direction.

If you blink you'll miss the alien setup at the start of the picture where we're given about 10 seconds of outer space shots as a craft of some sort enters earth's atmosphere. (It might be better if you do miss it as it serves only to undermine the suspense later on.) After that we're introduced to Ahnuld's character "Dutch" along with his crew of ultimate bad-asses and after the Gov and Carl Weathers finish admiring each others sweaty biceps we're told that Dutch and Co are being sent on a mission to the central American jungles to extract a diplomat who's been captured by rebels. Of course there is no diplomat and they're actually there to clean up the mess created by the failure of an earlier black ops team, but that's inconsequential because as Dutch's team attempt to extricate themselves from the unpleasantness around them they begin to realize that a bunch of peasants with guns are the least of their problems.

Because a movie with only hunky guys might seem a bit too gay a female character is introduced in the very agreeable (though not to our heroes of course) form of Elpidia Carrillo. She's the only one without a gun (literally, physically and symbolically) and is therefore of no interest to our alien either. Her role is to give young male viewers who might become a bit squeamish (or aroused) by seeing Sonny Landham's character "Billy" sucking on a milk-filled vine something to hang their heterosexual identities on and she fulfills that role admirably.

As they make their way "to the chopper" the boys are picked off one at a time by their phantom pursuer with each incident serving to also reveal a few more details about our bad guy. As the film moves squarely from "Rambo" into "Alien" territory the hackneyed dialogue and jokes about women's anatomy mercifully come to an end and what we're left with is a pretty well done cat and mouse in the jungle picture.

Since Predator's stage is a real jungle it doesn't suffer from being dated by its technological accoutrement. The special effects are limited to Stan Winston's rasta-cyborg and they stand up well, even when viewed today. The supporting cast all do their jobs of playing victims in waiting effectively and John Alpine's cinematography creates a sense of claustrophobic isolation and dread that separate it from your standard guy-flick.

At the end of the reel Predator is a fun, funny, well constructed sci-fi action flick that introduces us to one of the most compelling movie creatures of the past quarter century. Not bad for what could easily have been just another B-movie about sweaty guys admiring each others guns.