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[REVIEW] Soldier (1998) Is Classic ’90s Sci-Fi – ManlyMovie

[REVIEW] Soldier (1998) Is Classic ’90s Sci-Fi

968full-soldier-screenshot
Runtime:
99 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect:  One of Paul W.S. Anderson’s most watchable movies

1998’s Soldier is a science fiction action film written by David Webb Peoples. For those unaware, Peoples co-wrote Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys, and scripted Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, among several other credits. The writer actually considers Soldier to be a spiritual cousin toBlade Runner, and a “side-quel” since it takes place in the same filmic universe. However, Soldier is also directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson), a director who likes to make trashy action flicks and who gets a lot of flack for his efforts. Hence, while Peoples’ script might have been more substantive at some stage, the end result is merely an entertaining action film with a few nice ideas, and it works in that sense. It’s a shallow macho guy film, a blood-and-bullet fest beset with R-rated content destined to appeal to its target market.

Sergeant Todd (Kurt Russell) is a hardened soldier trained from birth, indoctrinated to be a killing machine who carries out orders without a second thought. Every emotion has been leeched out of him after decades of fighting in various wars and campaigns. However, the ambitious Colonel Mekum (Isaacs) introduces a new breed of genetically engineered soldiers that are younger, faster, stronger and better than their predecessors, rendering Todd and his comrades obsolete. Discarded after being bested by Mekum’s finest soldier, Todd is dumped on a planet inhabited by a small band of stranded colonists. Although Todd is accepted into their community, trouble looms when Mekum arrives on the planet to put his new soldiers through a training exercise. He deems the colonists’ presence as unlawful and orders their termination, but Todd is unwilling to let that happen.

To the credit of Peoples and Anderson, Soldier takes its time to build the characters and observe Todd as he struggles to ingratiate himself into a more peaceful culture. Peoples’ script has a number of things on its mind, exploring if it’s possible for a lifelong killing machine to assimilate themselves back into society. It doesn’t exactly explore the concept with any real depth, but it gives what’s essentially a dumb action film some thematic relevance. However, the narrative here plays out like any generic “new guy moves into town and saves the townspeople” flick (Shane, anyone?), and it doesn’t contain many original elements. As a matter of fact, it borrows from any number of films, including Aliens and Rambo. Also problematic: Mekum’s motivation for heading to the planet to decimate the populace is completely flimsy, leaving us to just shrug and accept the contrived behaviour.

Anderson gets a lot of hate for his movies, but he knows how to construct fluid and exciting action scenes. The fight choreography here is solid, and the gun battles are badass. When Todd cuts loose and sets out to eliminate his opponents, Soldier is insanely entertaining, guaranteed to leave you with a big dumb grin on your face. It’s the type of red-blooded American action film we saw so often back in the ’80s when the “one man army” genre was so prominent (Rambo 2, Commando). The production values here impress as well, as to be expected from a well-budgeted $60 million film. Although a few special effect shots look dated (especially an explosion at the end), this only amplifies the fun factor. If you come to Soldier seeking an evening of pure popcorn entertainment, rest assured that it delivers in a big way. It’s definitely cheesy, but that’s all part of the picture’s charm. They don’t make enjoyably goofy flicks like this anymore.

Russell was handed a tough task in portraying Todd. Although the star is on-screen practically all the time, he only says about 100 words throughout the entire movie. Instead of using words to convey his character’s feelings, Russell had to do all the heavy lifting with facial expressions and body language. And he pulls it off beautifully. It’s a terrifically nuanced performance, showing that Russell is a better actor than he gets credit for. Also in the cast is Isaacs, who essentially plays a cartoonish, moustache-twirling villain. It’s a cheesy role, but Isaacs seems to be in the right spirit. Gary Busey is here as well, showing us why every movie can benefit from a touch of Busey.

With a few rewrites, Soldier could’ve been a thoughtful sci-fi action masterpiece. As it stands, this is just a ridiculously entertaining blockbuster overseen by a veteran purveyor of filmic junk food. Unfortunately, the film was a box office disaster, grossing less than $15 million at the domestic box office and predominantly going straight-to-video in the rest of the world. The critics used it as a punching bag, as well. But it matters not. As long as you can accept the movie for what it is, it’s a blast.

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  • AlTeo

    The soundtrack for this film though is a beast… one that’s better than the actual movie itself.

  • The Predator Fan

    Your soldiers are obsolete!! I love this movie

  • Mainline DnB

    Totally agree with this review. Always loved this film and thought it was unfairly mauled by both critics & audiences alike.

  • 123

    Paul w Anderson made the best video game movie ever …………. Mortal kombattttttttttttttttttttttttttttt “get over here” now that has to be a manly movie was cheesy but awesome for its time.

    • Mucho Macho

      Super Mario Brothers movie rules!!!!
      Hahaha
      not really

  • 123

    He also made one of Statham s better films death race, that has to be manly also he gets criticise for the resident evil films as they don’t stick close to the original material but the first one was a solid film, the second which he didn’t direct was awesome turn your brain off fun if you like the games.

    The rest I’ve enjoyed do dip in quality, poor scripts,must just be my guilty pleasure movies they make tons at the box office so I guess some people do enjoy them as they wouldn’t keep going to see them.

    Hoping the tv series if they make it does stick closer to the game though make it similar in tone to the walking dead.

  • The Night Rider

    I love to hate Anderson but this isn’t a bad film, neither is Mortal Kombat or Event Horizon.

    • Mucho Macho

      As my grandpa used to say : “Even bitches you hate can give you good head from time to time.”
      & i as a boy would be like :” What!?”

      • The Night Rider

        Ain’t that the truth. Especially the fat ones.

        • Mucho Macho

          Lol..hahaha. true
          they usually work harder cause they are grateful that they are getting some.

  • Mucho Macho

    *I love Kurt Russell & i love this movie.
    Movies can be like people. Some people get praise for doing anything & some people get shit on for now reason other than that’s what everybody else is doing.
    *This is a good old fashion manly bad ass flick. It was entertaining from beginning to end. I thought the tone was just right. Russell played the part very well. I recall watching an interview for this movie in which he said he asked for a year to train b4 shooting the movie so he’ll look the part.
    *A good macho sci fi movie with Gary fucking Busey thrown in there for good measure.
    *1998 was also a good year for manly flicks. The era was ending..but we didn’t know it.
    we were like assholes on board the Titanic.lol
    *Good review of a good movie Pvt.

    • jim

      HA!HA!HA!…Titanic was full of assholes? Maybe so my friend….They didn’t know what hit ’em …and neither did we. Ever get the feeling you were born decades too late?

      • Mucho Macho

        *”Assholes on board the Titanic”..lol
        sometimes i write shit then i look back on it & go ” wtf?! Was a cranky?! or hungry or what?!”
        *Yeah i know what u mean. Either born to late or too soon…i don’t know..i wish now i had this internet shit when i was in high school.
        *i was just having this conversation with a friend of mine this past week. Talkin about relationships & shit. Our fathers,grandfathers,great grandfathers got away with so much shit.they provided..that was the deal..but the women didn’t ask “where were u?! Blah blah blah”
        I like my gf..she’s cool..but goddman! Women aint got no hobbies today except the men in their lives! Stop texting me for 5 minutes!!! Hahaha .i envy those men who lived their lives without “what u doing, where are u, when u coming home?” Texts
        hahaha. They were lucky Jim..lol

        • jim

          Odd that I never checked out a film with Russell and Busey. Must get on to that.

          • Mucho Macho

            ⤵⤵⤵

          • jim

            I know.Incredible but true.Gary is one of the movie world’s sacred monster nutters and Russel will always be a BadAss Hall Of Famer for playing Snake Plissken , a part, let us not forget, which was once earmarked for none other than Charles Fucking Bronson. True BadAss immortality. But there is also The Thing, his great turn in Dark Blue (terrible ending) and the uber cool Tequila Sunrise , a criminally underrated movie which I love to quote. There is a scene where Russell, who plays a cop, is asked how he feels about having his men drinking on duty. Russell replies
            ” I always recommend they drink whisky and not vodka so the brass will know they’re drunk and not stupid”

          • Mucho Macho

            Sir..my respect for being a fan of “Tequila Sunrise”. A movie i truly love i think is criminally underrated in both Gibson & Russell’s filmography. Big fan as well of both Raul Julia & JT Walsh. I loved both actors. Both left us too soon. Julia was great.
            Soldier is a pretty cool sci fi action movie. It’s fun.

          • Andymovieman

            Not just that. Also Jeff Bridges, Nick Nolte, Tommy Lee Jones and Chuck Norris were considered to play Snake Plissken before Kurt Russell got the part.

  • Mucho Macho

    ??

  • Andymovieman

    Soldier is like escape from New York, rambo, terminator, aliens, etc., all rolled into one. One of the last good nineties movies from Kurt Russell.

  • Andymovieman

    This is the closest we got to a sequel to escape from New York and escape from LA but different. This is escape from earth that we never got.