Soldier (1998)

Starring Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee, Gary Busey, Jason Isaacs.
Written by David Webb Peoples.
Directed by Paul Anderson.

Grade: F

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

They just don't make bad films like they used to. The 1980s gave us a slew of laughably bad films like The Running Man, The Hidden, and They Live. Yet many of those movies were highly entertaining. In fact, some of those low-budget Eighties action movies, like The Terminator, were landmark films despite being considered beneath the notice of many "serious" critics at the time they were released. The contributions of The Terminator and The Road Warrior to the development of the action genre cannot be underestimated. Other Eighties films, like Highlander, became big cult hits.

Soldier is just plain bad. Unlike many of those 1980s classics, it's entirely humorless and the action sequences are thoroughly uninspired. Because Kurt Russell plays a genetically-engineered soldier programmed to follow orders, he barely speaks, so there's not even any decent one-liners to alleviate the tedium. Kurt Russell

Russell's aging soldier and his colleagues are replaced with a new generation of faster and stronger soldiers, such as the robotic Jason Scott Lee. When Russell is presumed dead after a training accident, he is literally thrown out with the garbage. He wakes up to find himself on a distant planet being used as a waste dump. The sets look like they were put together using scraps from other movies—which, in fact, they were. Russell is taken in by a group of forgotten colonists who live amidst the refuse. They soon find themselves under attack from Russell's old platoon, led by Gary Busey and Jason Isaacs. Why does the platoon attack the settlement? Who knows. Nothing better to do, apparently. Anyway, it's up to Russell to get in touch with his feelings and save the day.

Inexplicably, David Webb Peoples, the screenwriter of Blade Runner and Unforgiven, is responsible for writing this awful mess. Soldier also represents a huge step backward for director Paul Anderson, who brought a focused eye to genre pieces Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon. Although characterizing them as great films would be a stretch, Mortal Kombat was tightly edited and well choreographed, while Event Horizon featured excellent tension-building atmospherics. To classify anything about Soldier as second-rate would be a compliment. Hopefully it is not representative of what we can expect from Peoples and Anderson in the future.

Review © June 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
© 1998 Morgan Creek/Warner Bros.

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