In Colombia, Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff), the criminal son of a powerful drug baron is not happy because his father has been arrested and threatened with extradition to the United States to stand trial. To guarantee this will not happen, he takes his henchmen and holds a courtroom hostage, but despite his actions his father is still taken to North America and in a fit of pique he kills the judge as they are whisked away in a helicopter. Meanwhile, in the West Virginian Regis School for Boys the son of the man responsible for the extradition is taken into protection - but nobody told Cali...
The first major cycle of U.S. action movies was winding down by the time Hollywood got around to Toy Soldiers, which explains why they had gone for that standby of the desperate producer, pandering to the youth market. To an extent this was a success, and the film won a cult following at the time among those wanting to see a bunch of kids their own age standing up against a group of terrorists, although it did not perhaps go as far as they would have wanted. This was because a decision was evidently taken early on not to have any of their young heroes actually shoot anyone.
After all, that would be bad taste, wouldn't it? So as much as you might hope to see Sean Astin as teens' leader Billy send the baddies flying in a hail of machine gun fire, you were not going to see it here: Commando for kids this was not. Yet neither was it really for the younger viewers, as there were still potentially trauma inducing scenes of other characters being shot, not to mention a measure of strong language - a lot of it, if not most of it, from Wil Wheaton, here trying to break out of his goody two-shoes role now famous from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Naturally this made him look ridiculous.
What happens is that the school is held siege by Cali and his troops, all with the orders to hand over his dad or else he'll start bumping people off. That's the idea anyway, but by the time they heavies have invaded there have been a couple of deaths at their hands, and they threaten to execute five people thereafter should the head count they take ever reveal there to be one person missing. More missing and more die, so it's a tricky situation that our plucky protagonists must navigate, yet under the guidance of Billy they formulate a plan. It should be pointed out that Billy makes a name for himself early on through his pranks, and comes across as such an arsehole that you begin to wonder whose side you're supposed to be on.
Setting those misgivings aside, and it's not easy, you are plunged into a high octane thrill ride - well, not really, as for some reason co-writer and director Daniel Petrie Jr takes his own sweet time about telling his story, allowing the pace to be best described as pedestrian. This could have been a lot more enjoyable if they had embraced the more absurd notions and gone all out to produce the tension and action, but instead it plods along, giving you too much time to notice how oddly most of the teen cast spend a lot of their time with their shirts off - who was this supposed to be for, then? With stalwarts in the cast like Denholm Elliott as the kindly headmaster, R. Lee Ermey orchestrating the army outside the school perimeter, and Louis Gossett Jr as Billy's nemesis-turned-most resourceful teacher ever, then at least this wasn't amateurish, yet the sense of them holding back, one infamously manipulative scene aside, meant that this was ho-hum at best. Music by Robert Folk.