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  Soldier Down In The Dumps
Year: 1998
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Connie Nielsen, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee, Gary Busey, Michael Chiklis, Jared Thorne, Taylor Thorne, Paul Dillon, Max Daniels, Paul Sklar, Jesse D. Goins, Ashley Nolan, Ellen Crawford, Don Pulford, Mark Bringelson
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1996 a batch of babies were born with one destiny in mind for them: to become the greatest fighting force Planet Earth had ever seen. One of them was Todd 3465 (Kurt Russell), who was promising throughout the years of his training, never flagging at any of the tasks he was set to do, unlike some who fell by the wayside. By the time forty years had passed, he had amassed many battle campaigns of which he helped win, but even as humanity spread into space, taking its conflicts with it, it never crossed Todd's mind that he might be replaced...

Soldier had all the hallmarks of a potential blockbuster, with an impressive budget and perhaps more importantly a script by David Webb Peoples which took place in the same universe as his screenplay for the cult classic Blade Runner, surely a good omen of how this would be regarded once released. Alas, it was not to be, and just as that Ridley Scott movie had flopped on its initial opening, so did Soldier, even going straight to video in the United Kingdom in spite of that country providing half of its production. Yet while Blade Runner only increased in stature over the years, it seemed unlikely the same would happen here.

The trouble was, no matter how much the special effects department were enlisted to fashion an impressive set of visuals, the end result couldn't help but look like pretty small beer compared to other science fiction epics that had done rather better with the public. It was hard to put your finger on, but something about Soldier came across as unimpressive and reduced scale, even with all those explosions that it was so fond of, especially in the latter stages. Director Paul W.S. Anderson was coming off the moderate success of Event Horizon, and even that felt more of an occasion than what Russell, whose admirably minimalist performance was wasted here, got up to once he landed on a garbage dump planet.

A garbage dump planet inhabited by a bunch of weak-kneed hippies, by all accounts, so it was only a matter of time that the echoes of Shane decreed that Todd should be standing up to the baddies who want to wipe out their already meagre existence. If anything, this was less like Shane and more like a futuristic Billy Jack, as the peace loving community turn to a loner who can kick ass in the way that they simply cannot, leaving us to champion the use of violence when any hope of diplomacy goes straight out the window - head first, without opening it, and tumbles down the fire escape to crash into a pile of cardboard boxes. So much for peace when you have to rely on strongarm tactics.

The reason Todd is drummed out of the army is because a faster better stronger bunch of warriors appear and take over the jobs of him and his fellows, although he does get to gouge out the eye of the leader of them, Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee), so we know it's not simply because he's turned into a great big wuss. Nevertheless, he is literally dumped onto the garbage planet presumed dead, and has to get used to a more sedate lifestyle with the people he finds there, in particular Sean Pertwee (ooh, I wonder what will happen to his character?) and his good lady wife (Connie Nielsen) who Todd senses a spark of sexual tension with for the first time in his battle-scarred existence. It's all very blah as it resolved itself into one empty action sequence after another, and if you like to see things blown up good - blown up real good - then you will be satisfied, except that Soldier evidently had pretensions to be something more, a thinking man's action sci-fi, which it failed to be. Music by Joel McNeely.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Paul W.S. Anderson  (1965 - )

British director who specialises in noisy, flashy sci-fi action. Made his debut in 1994 with the ram-raiding thriller Shopping, and scored his biggest critical success in 1997 with the scary space shocker Event Horizon. Anderson's Kurt Russell vehicle Soldier was a costly flop, but his computer game adaptations Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil proved more entertaining than they probably should have done. His Alien Vs. Predator was a hit, but was controversial amongst fans of the two franchises. Remake Death Race, a liberal version of The Three Musketeers and more Resident Evil sequels followed before he had a go at 3D peplum with Pompeii. Not to be confused with Magnolia director Paul Thomas Anderson.

 
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