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  Toy Soldiers Holiday From Hell
Year: 1984
Director: David Fisher
Stars: Jason Miller, Cleavon Little, Rodolfo de Anda, Terri Garber, Douglas Warhit, Willard E. Pugh, Jim Greenleaf, Mary Beth Evans, Tim Robbins, Jay Baker, Larry Poindexter, Alejandro Arroyo, Tracy Scoggins, James Andronica, Martin LaSalle, Roger Cudney
Genre: Action, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sarge (Jason Miller) has been hired to escort a party of young people to Central America, through the Panama Canal, all he needs to do is keep them safe and helm the yacht they're travelling on. It seemed straightforward enough, but there was a problem when a prank played on him had unforeseen consequences as he was left in the dinghy with a flooded outboard motor as the kids set off without him, feeling a lot less inhibited now there was no chaperone to tell them what to do. However, after a day of fooling around, one of their number stumbled and fell on the deck, knocking himself out. Now he is urgently in need of medical attention, so half the holidaymakers take him ashore...

But before you start asking "Where's Wil Wheaton?" just to be clear this was the other Toy Soldiers, the more obscure indie action flick that did very little to make an impact on its first release, then lurked on late night television schedules or DVD bargain bins to ensnare the unsuspecting viewer wanting to take a chance on an item that promised excitement and shootiebangs. As it turned out should you actually watch it, all that was relegated to the last fifteen minutes, as the rest of it saw the vacation party who had ventured ashore being roundly abused by evil Central Americans who are all sweaty, wear khaki uniforms and call their neighbours from the north "gringo" a lot. Well, almost, as one does get away.

She is wealthy heiress-to-be Amy (future TV soap queen Terri Garber) and after a terrible kerfuffle she manages to escape to raise the alarm as her three pals are still left behind, facing rape and beatings (largely offscreen, but pretty unpalatable nonetheless). This sees the other part of the movie, the middle section, bouncing back and forth between the hostages - who are being ransomed for three million dollars, only the U.S. Government are not interested in negotiating with terrorists - and Amy in the United States trying to persuade all and sundry to accompany her back to Costa Verde (made up country, well, they didn't want to offend anybody, right?) for a rescue mission.

Amy's father is dead against this, and Sarge is none too impressed either, but she can use her powers of needling to get her friends, the ones who were on the yacht and who include Tim Robbins in an early role, to assist her. They are sceptical she has what it takes, but it's all right since she has recently murdered someone in cold blood - huh? You read that correctly, there's a scene where she is jogging along a beach when some anonymous bloke jumps up, somehow creeping up on her, and attacks her. No sooner than that occurs than Amy boots him in the bollocks underwater and hold his head beneath the waves; who was this guy? Anyway, apparently this satisfies the new killer that she is qualified for holding a gun and blowing away baddies.

In essence this was pandering to the belief that if push came to shove, any ordinary person would be able to turn as violent as the occasion demanded and be a hero, not something backed up by real life, but this was a fantasy the movie was dealing with, so perhaps we shouldn't dwell on its dubious message-making. Also in the cast was Cleavon Little, continuing his prolific but largely low quality career and reminding us as usual he should have been a bigger star than he was, here playing Exorcist star Miller's pilot sidekick and mainly present to make a few quips and fly the light aircraft to the mayhem of the final act. This was more like the action movie territory that was growing distinctly familiar as the decade wore on, with evil troops who can't aim their weapons and lots of explosions, though aficionados would be disappointed not to see any surveillance towers blown up complete with stuntman taking a dive off the top. Additional interest may have been provided for some by TV stalwart Tracy Scoggins, who was one of the victimised hostages, but this was really basic stuff. Music by Leland Bond.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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