Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meets All Expectations, If You Expect a Crappy Movie: "Soldier" (1998)

If you didn't know any better, you would think I was about to describe the plot of a Chuck Norris or Jean Claude Van Damme straight to video film.

Kurt Russell plays Todd, a soldier. No, he didn't join the army expecting free tuition for four years, he was picked from birth to be trained in combat fighting to point where he is nothing more than a programmable killing machine. He and his fellow soldiers fight in many skirmishes and battles until Mekum (Jason Isaacs) comes along. Mekum has created a new fighting force using genetic engineering. One of his men, Caine (Jason Scott Lee), kills two other older soldiers and wounds Todd. Todd and his dead comrades are dumped on a giant garbage collecting planet, no one knowing that Todd is still alive.

On the planet, he meets the survivors of a crashed ship who have a Utopian existence going on. Todd stays with Mace (Sean Pertwee), and his wife Sandra (the beautiful Connie Nielsen, who was the best thing about "Gladiator"), and he begins to learn the way of love and peace, man. Todd is still a soldier, and he is booted out of the commune after a misunderstanding involving a deadly snake and Mace's mute and cute son. Mace realizes his mistake and goes after Todd on a very fateful day.

Mekum just happens to pick the garbage planet to train his new fighting force on. They will go in, and if they encounter anyone, they will kill them. The last third of the film is one big long nasty fight.

I like science fiction as much as the next Trekkie, but "Soldier" does not contain one plot point or character I have not seen before. The outcome is a foregone conclusion. Russell is just too good an actor to play stiff. He is wasted in the title role, another version of the Terminator or Rambo or any other silent killing machine. Things on the garbage planet are going too well, and the fact that the very same man who dumped Todd there picks it for exercises is a real stretch of logic.

The special effects are okay, nothing you haven't seen before. The supporting cast all tries, but the direction and script just stink. Anderson's final third is not just a long shootout, but a boring one. Todd is everywhere and nowhere, killing indestructible soldiers, then vanishing. Eventually, all the explosions, shootings, punches, and hoopla bore, especially when the end is so devoid of suspense. At ninety nine minutes, the film feels padded, as if the running time was slowly increased by more and more explosions.

"Soldier" bombed at the box office, and with good reason. Sometimes the public can spot a loser, and they were right in this case. (*) out of five stars.