Predator 1987’s handheld minigun “Old Painless” is wildly impractical in real life — but that doesn’t stop it from looking cool on camera.
The minigun scene in Predator creates a plot hole but was included in the sci-fi action movie regardless — because it looks great onscreen. The M134 minigun, nicknamed “Old Painless,” is initially wielded by the mercenary Blain, and later Mac — who unloads its entire supply of ammunition in one of the 1987 movie’s most gripping scenes. However, over the years, many viewers have noted several issues with this sequence: such a gun doesn’t exist.
After finding the skinned corpses of the Green Berets, Blain breaks out Old Painless to avenge them. When the Jungle Hunter kills Blain, Mac — his best friend — expends all the gun’s rounds by firing blindly into the forest. The epic minute-long sequence doesn’t kill the titular predator, as intended, but Mac does wound it, leading to arguably the movie’s most iconic line: “if it bleeds, we can kill it.”
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The memorable weapon that appears in Predator does not exist in real life. Real M134 guns are mounted and require a power source — not to mention being far too heavy to be carried through a jungle. “Old Painless” was custom-designed by Stembridge Gun Rentals to look good on film: they reduced the rounds per minute of the minigun from 6,000 to 1,200 to both conserve ammunition and make it easier for Blain’s actor, Jesse Ventura, to handle the recoil. Even at this reduced rate though, he would have been carrying only about 4-6 seconds worth of ammunition, with an additional 25 seconds worth in the ammo box. There also would have been over 1000 shell casings around Blain’s ankles — yet none are seen in the film!
Despite the impossibility, this type of handheld minigun has become a staple of the action genre, appearing in Terminator 2, The Expendables 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and several other movies. There’s a good reason it’s is so popular onscreen: it looks cool. The action genre is not meant to be realistic. If that were true, John McClane would be dead several times over in the first Die Hard. Sometimes, realism has to be sacrificed for the sake of aesthetics and story. When going into an action movie, audiences are agreeing to suspend their disbelief to a certain degree as long as it looks cool and works within the internal logic of the movie.
The magic of Hollywood is that, as long as the audience is invested, little things like an impossible weapon or wounds that would kill a normal person don’t matter. Old Painless looks cool, and it’s fun to watch in action. Audiences aren’t going to see an action sci-fi movie for realism and weapon accuracy. After all, if they are willing to accept that in Predator, an alien is killing mercenaries in the jungle for sport, then a wildly impractical handheld machine gun is practically true to life!
Next: How Robert Rodriguez’s Predators Redeems The Rejected Early Predator Design
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