Directed by: Paul Anderson
Written: David Webb Peoples
Rating : * * * out of * * * * *
This Review Filed: December 20, 1998.
No airs, just action
It's tough these days, to bundle through the glam movie world of Mark Wahlberg sensitive new age hitmen, Chow Yuen Fatt versace-esque saviours and machine-gun mouth Chris Tucker types to find the unpretentious action film. Look no further. SOLDIER is that trusty pair of unassuming blue jeans hidden amongst the slippery leather tights and flabby cargo pants.
Almost everything about SOLDIER is unpretentious, from its generic monster-truck market friendly title to its conventional lead actor, Kurt Russell. He's the one you struggle to name when asked to list the ten hunkiest action stars, "who comes after Dolph Lungren? Ice-T....".
But what's neat about SOLDIER isn't the fact that it's simple but that it remains unpretentious despite the sci-fi setting, the nature vs nurture theme and the Hollywood trend to equate big budgets with techno-gizmo saturation. This film doesn't try to be the next STARSHIP TROOPERS, ENEMY OF THE STATE or if movie critics can forbid, REPLACEMENT KILLERS. After the knotty fiasco of his last incomprehensible venture, EVENT HORIZON, I suspect director Paul Anderson was eager to return to the simple MORTAL KOMBAT formula he once fashioned.
And a simple formula it is. Kurt Russel is Todd, a professional soldier, nurtured in warrior ways from birth. He soon meets his nemesis, Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee). Caine is a genetically engineered soldier who retires Todd by beating the hell out of him. Well, almost. Conveniently, Todd is presumed dead, so he can be dumped on this waste planet inhabited by a bunch of ugly mad max post-apocalyptic hippie types. Todd is nursed back to health by the only supermodel-looking one among them but is soon asked to leave because he's just too wierd for them. Conveniently as well, Caine and his mutant soldiers are sent there to do a bit of planet cleansing so Todd can come to the rescue of the defenceless and kick bad guy's butt.
There are no amazing jaw-dropping surprises in SOLDIER but you're unlikely to be walking away with that quizzical just-what-was-that-about look either. It's forty years into the future, but there are no lasers, just bullets and the ever popular flame-thrower. The tanks are souped-up monster trucks and the bad guy commander is dressed like he belongs on the bridge of the Death Star. Soldiers still fight by walking-in Rambo style with guns blazing and the enemies still die by running into a hail of fire the HOT SHOTS, PART DEUX way. The fight to the finish is still accomplished with fists and kicks. It's friendly and familiar.
SOLDIER is predictable action movie stuff. But compared to the loud king-of-the-world wanna-be's, it's a quiet, if expensively made, winner.
The Flying Inkpot's Rating System
* Wait for the TV2 broadcast.
** A little creaky, but still better than staying at home with Gotcha!
*** Pretty good, bring a friend.
**** Amazing, potent stuff.
***** Perfection. See it twice.
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