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video review out of 4 Movie Review: Soldier

Starring: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee
Director: paul anderson
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review by Walter Frith
½ star out of 4

I'll make a prediction right now. Kurt Russell, whom I admire as an actor in a lot of movies, will win the Razzie award for worst actor of 1998 in 'Soldier'. I read somewhere that Russell utters a total of only 68 words in the entire film and to me he spends the rest of the movie looking like a mindless version of Frankenstein's monster, one of the living dead and a cyborg all rolled into one. Russell gave an excellent performance in 1979's 'Elvis', a television classic that brought him an Emmy nomination as Best Actor. Some of his best work can be found in movies such as 'Breakdown', 'Unlawful Entry', 'Backdraft' and 'Tequila Sunrise'. But as an action hero? Russell is too talented for that. His portrayal of the ordinary guy in a lot of films makes his presence work but 'Soldier' is junk. An unsavory mix of several science fiction films scaled down into one mess.

Beginning in 1996, Russell is taken from the maternity ward of the hospital he's born at by a secret military attaché that trains him from the cradle to be an unbeatable, unstoppable and pure fighting machine. We see his progression as a soldier at various ages until his training ends at the beginning of manhood when he turns 17. Several more years pass and Russell is now around 40 and a new breed of soldier is created and their Colonel (Jason Issacs) is arrogantly pleased that his men, he feels, are superior to the men lead by a rather sedate Captain (Gary Busey) who is Russell's commanding officer. Issacs challenges Busey to select his best men to take down his most effective new breed of soldier (Jason Scott Lee). Russell is one of the men selected and during the hand to hand combat exercise, Russell is presumed dead along with a couple of other men but not before he can take out one of the new soldier's eye and scar part of his face.

The bodies of the now "obsolete" soldiers are disposed of on a desolate planet but Russell turns out not to be dead and upon landing with a large batch of space junk, meets the inhabitants of the desolate waste planet and tries to lead them in the oncoming invasion to be carried out by the deranged Colonel responsible for his current fate. The people are taken a back to Russell's deadly form of fighting power since their way of life is relatively peaceful and the climax is pay back and revenge in a most ordinary way.

Director Paul Anderson ('Event Horizon') has made an real turkey of a movie that cries out as the definition of 'empty' if you were to look it up in the dictionary. The film's obligatory violence is meaningless and to a larger extent, no focus is given to create any interesting characters as a contrast to Russell's character. What made 1984's 'The Terminator' work was the fact that the characters portrayed by Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn were truly human and were a good character contrast to Arnold's mechanical elements.

Trashy and exploiting, 'Soldier' will have you asking "What's the point?" when you leave the theatre. Not bad for the testosterone crowd but for the rest of us, this film is an example of too much money spent on a film that's been done a million times before.

Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith

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