STARRING: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Neilsen, Gary Busey, Sean Pertwee, Danny Turner

1998, 100 Minutes, Directed by: Paul Anderson

soldier1.jpg (10303 bytes)If you’ve heard that Soldier is written by David Webb Peoples who also wrote the excellent Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys – then forget all about it! Also forget whatever Peoples may have said in interviews about the film being a "side-quel" of sorts to Blade Runner, i.e., set in the same universe as that 1982 modern classic. The two films cannot be compared at all – the one being an intelligent and highly original film and the other being a piece of extremely derivative filmmaking.

All that means is if you’re a rabid Blade Runner fan then you might briefly catch some "insider" references to that movie – a so-called "spinner" vehicle briefly glimpsed in the corner of one’s eye and a character mentioning the "battle of Tannhauser Gates" (referred to by the Rutger Hauer character in his eloquent death scene).

If you instead think of Soldier as being directed by Paul Andersen who did last year’s chiller set in outer space, Event Horizon which consisted of bits stolen from other (better) movies, then you might stand a better chance at not being disappointed by this movie. Like Event Horizon, Soldier is hacked together with bits stolen from other movies, the most notably being those 1980s-style Rambo movies. Yup, that’s right: Soldier never goes beyond the macho action man killing off all the baddies one by one and then finally facing off against one single opponent in a drawn-out hand-to-hand fight scene. Pretty disappointing stuff coming from the same pen as the man who gave us two veritable modern sci-fi classics . . .

Odds are that Soldier was probably more interesting on paper than how it eventually turned out to be on celluloid. This suspicion is confirmed at the start of the movie where we allowed to witness key scenes from the training the main character played by Kurt Russell (who speaks even less than he did in Escape from L.A.) underwent since childhood.

To recap: Russell is trained from birth to be the ultimate soldier – cold, emotionless, ruthless, to follow orders without questioning, etc. He is more of a machine as much as the replicants (androids) hunted by Deckard back on earth in Blade Runner. However, like all machines he becomes redundant when even better genetically engineered soldiers are introduced and like a piece of machinery he is left for dead and discarded like an old piece of machinery on a planet used for dumping trash.

Until about this point Soldier is vaguely interesting, but things take a sharp downward turn from there on: on the planet he is taken in by a group of refugees who becomes the target of the new genetically engineered troops who are out on a practice run. Russell, well, kills them all – just as he vowed to do in the trailers – and the film becomes a pure Rambo action film. Taken as an example of this particular brand of action movie, Soldier makes for passable entertainment. The special effects and production designs are good. Russell is also clever enough to sustain his military man persona throughout the movie – he "Sirs" everybody, for example.

Soldier throws some dangling leads at its start at what it could have been. Recently I’ve seen quite a few movies dealing with similar themes of war, emotionally dysfunctional soldiers and a newer breed of killer taking over from the old, namely Saving Private Ryan, Savior and The Wild Bunch. All of these movies are much better and I would recommend any one of them over Soldier. Even taken as a loud no-brainer action movie you’ll find that Soldier ends rather abruptly and unsatisfyingly . . .



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