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  Soldier, The Force The IssueBuy this film here.
Year: 1982
Director: James Glickenhaus
Stars: Ken Wahl, Alberta Watson, Jeremiah Sullivan, William Prince, Joaquim de Almeida, Peter Hooten, Steve James, Alexander Spencer, Klaus Kinski, Bill Anagnos, Bob Andrews, Lisa Cain, Gerald Aleck Cantor, Anthony Cecere, Al Cerullo, Jeffrey Jones
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A limousine is driving through Washington D.C. when a little old lady pushing a pram is crossing the street in front of it - and the car ploughs straight into her! Four bystanders rush over and turn over the body, but she is dead. And also, she is not a little old lady, she was a young terrorist lady, and the bystanders are her cohorts who draw pistols and machine guns to try and do better than her, then realise four soldiers have been observing them and open fire, mowing them down in a hail of bullets. Who are these men? The are the special force recruited for missions that go above and beyond the call of duty, and they are led by the best of the best: The Soldier (Ken Wahl)!

He doesn't actually have a name, he's simply called The Soldier in this, writer and director James Glickenhaus's follow-up to his grindhouse vigilante favourite The Exterminator. Well, technically Exterminator 2 was the follow-up, being the sequel and all, but this was his move towards the mainstream in an item that assuredly looked forward to the way action cinema was heading in the nineteen-eighties. Which was, as far as America went, uber-patriotic, only liberal in the sense that bullets and explosions were liberally distributed, and starring big, big men who took no shit, were capable in an extreme degree, and if need be could take on a whole army and survive.

Ken Wahl was our hero here, yet it was clear the template had not quite been refined (or bashed out) as he shared the screen with his special force of four commandos, so the duties were doled out among about five people, not the way things would go in the movies to come. In addition, Wahl was, to be frank, barely in this, patently having shot his scenes in less than two weeks and edited in between the other business a cost-conscious Glickenhaus had been capturing elsewhere. Although this was presented as a globetrotting adventure, in the style of a James Bond entry that he was imitating on more slender means, we really only saw locations in the States and Berlin.

There was a good reason for the Berlin setting, and that was thanks to the grand finale which famously (er, famously among those who had seen this, it was kind of obscure in its genre) featured a Porsche being jumped over the Berlin Wall, or rather a facsimile of said structure, a bright spot of lunacy of the sort that eighties action could throw up without warning. Before that razzmatazz, we were served up a generous slice of patented Cold War paranoia, where a group of terrorists, the ones we had seen at the beginning, stole plutonium from a military vehicle (by blowing it up - safety first and always, eh, lads?) and threatened to contaminate a huge percentage of the world's oil supply in Saudi Arabia by detonating the material on an oil field, thus flinging the global economy into disaster.

The Russians may or may not be behind this, but let's face it: American movie off of the Reaganite eighties, Cold War setting, of course the Russians were behind it! This led to what looked like a patchwork of scenes the director assembled in the hope it would achieve some form of coherence, including as that did an extended cameo from Klaus Kinski as a KGB man who tries to blow up The Soldier in a cable car, leading to an extended ski chase as in The Spy Who Loved Me (to pluck a title out of the air). There was also a sequence at a country and western bar where to the strains of the Good Ol' Boys (or similar) a massive punch up broke out and spoiled the ladies' mud wrestling championships taking place on the floor. Maybe you thought you'd wandered into a Hal Needham movie, but this reasserted itself with the fabulous four (who included Joaquim de Almeida, Peter Hooten and Steve James) infiltrating a US missile silo to aim a nuclear weapon at Moscow itself. Not very sensible, then, especially the extended bomb-making guide, but who needed sensible when the Free World was at stake? Music by Tangerine Dream!
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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