Soldier

Actually, I should have done #5 before I went to see “Solider,” quite possibly this year’s worst movie. If Hollywood were to have a Crap-Fest, “Soldier” could be their opening night premiere.


I was warned. The word of mouth was bad. I didn’t see “Soldier” the first day it came out. Luckily I saw “Pleasantville” that day. There’s nothing very pleasant about “Solider,” a film so old and tired it makes Estelle Getty look like a “Golden Girl.”

It’s hard to believe that this piece of crap was written by David Webb Peoples, whose credits include “The Unforgiven” and “Blade Runner.” I’d like to think that he had little to do with what finally ended up on the screen. Then again, Peoples also wrote “Leviathan.”

The blame goes to director Paul Anderson, the only director I know who could screw up “Forbidden Planet,” which is exactly what he did with “Event Horizon.” Anderson likes to make special-effects extravaganzas, and his first American film, “Mortal Kombat,” wasn’t that bad. Anderson has steadily gone downhill from there, and “Solider” is one big cinematic mess.

The premise is interesting if not derivative. In the year 1996, newborn infants are chosen to be bred as the fighting machines of the future. They’re raised as soldiers, devoid of any emotions, trained to kill on order. As “Soldier” begins, the first batch is chosen and put through the intense training necessary to turn them into the ultimate fighting machines.

The best of the best is Todd, who eventually grows up to be Kurt Russell, all buff and sweaty with no Chippendale’s to be found. Through numerous earthbound and galactic wars, Todd proves his worth, and then some. Enter Colonel Mekum (Jason Issacs), who wants to replace the old soldiers with a new, younger breed.

He gets resistance from platoon leader Church (Gary Busey),who demands that Todd be allowed to compete against one of Mekum’s new soldiers. Mekum is the bad guy, and we know this because of his John Water’s pencil-thin mustache and slicked back hair. Issacs plays him with a Snidley Whiplash glee that is embarrassing.

When Todd and two other soldiers fail in their attempt to better Cain 607 (Jason Scott Lee), their bodies are regulated to a trash planet in deep space. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if the star died in the first half-hour, so you know Kurt Russell’s character is just faking it. Todd is just out for the count, pretty much like the rest of the film. You’d think that someone would have checked for a pulse before disposing of Todd, but no!

They just take his word for it, or lack it. So now Todd’s stuck on this garbage heap planet, where he encounters a group of civilians whose spaceship crashed on the planet years earlier.

They’re the “Pissed Family Robinson.” They take Todd in and heal his wounds, but find the presence of a killing machine in their midst a bit perturbing. So when Todd regains his strength (we know he’s better when he kicks the butt of an old muffler), he’s sent packing. Good friends are hard to find, but Todd is built Ford Truck tough, and has no problem fighting the elements on his own.

Then Mekum and the new soldiers arrive on the planet for a customary scan of hostiles, who engage the inhabitants in an explosive war. Gee, do you think Todd will come to their rescue? Does an astronaut poop in his suit?

While a junk planet is a production designer’s wet dream, it fails to reach a visual climax in “Soldier.” It looks like a leftover set from a Terry Gilliam film. Everything about “Soldier” is familiar. If “Soldier” had ripped off any more movies, it wouldn’t be a film but a “best of” reel.

On the junk planet, Todd rides back into town like “Shane,” and even strikes up a friendship with a woman (Connie Nielsen) and her mute son (Jared and Taylor Thorne giving the Olsen twins a run for their money). At the end of the film, you expect the kid to chase after Todd and yell for him to come back.

There’s a lot in “Soldier” that is laughable. When one of the 12-year-old soldiers begins to lag behind during a cross country run, his superiors shoot him. Now that’s what I call discipline.

Then the film-maker’s make the dreadful mistake of shoving expository material down our throats. One of the character’s on the junk planet asks where Todd is, and another character says that he’s with Mace’s wife. I would imagine that everyone on the planet knows that Mace’s wife name is Sandra, so why would a character say that except to clue us in on who she is. Very clumsy.

“Soldier” makes little sense, and continuity is a major issue. The new breed of soldiers are outfitted with armor plating that only Todd’s bullets can penetrate. That’s convenient. Forget logic, forget the lame script, forget the by-the-numbers action sequences, forget the pedestrian special effects, and forget the lackluster direction. As a matter of fact, just forget “Soldier.” It’ll be on video soon enough.

THIS “SOLDIER” IS BATTLE WEARY

SOLDIER

Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Connie Nielsen, Gary Busey, Michael Chiklis, Jason Issacs in a film directed by Paul Andersen. Rated R. 91 Min.

LARSEN RATING: $1

Things to do this weekend:

#1: Laundry.

#2: Grocery Shopping.

#3: Clean Windows

#4: Take Betty White for her flea dip

#5: Have my head examined



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