[Screen It]


(1998) (Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Extreme Heavy Moderate Extreme
Minor Minor Moderate None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Minor None Minor Minor Extreme

Sci-fi: After being defeated and left for dead by his genetically engineered replacement, a soldier of the future finds himself stranded on a desolate planet where he must help a small community facing their own extinction.
Todd (KURT RUSSELL) has been raised and trained as a soldier since birth. A veteran of many galactic wars and conditioned to kill at any cost, Todd is the best of the best. That is, until the arrival of Colonel Mekum (JASON ISAACS) and his new team of genetically engineered soldiers who are far superior to Todd and the rest of his platoon.

Todd's commander, Captain Church (GARY BUSEY), doesn't believe this, and so pits Todd and several other soldiers against Caine 607 (JASON SCOTT LEE), one of Mekum's musclebound, superior warriors. It doesn't take long for Caine to dispatch his opponents, and under the assumption that they're all dead, their bodies are transported to Arcadia 234, a remote planet serving as a garbage outpost.

It turns out, however, that Todd isn't dead, and he's as equally surprised to find himself on the desolate, garbage-laden planet. Knocked unconscious by one of the many fierce windstorms that ravage the area, Todd awakens to see that he's being cared for by Sandra (CONNIE NELSON), a woman living on the planet along with a small group of long forgotten pioneers.

Sandra's partner, Mace (SEAN PERTWEE), her mute son, Nathan, and other settlers, including Jimmy Pig (MICHAEL CHIKLIS) are initially taken aback by Todd's stoic ferociousness, but try to acclimate him into their society.

It's not long before trouble arrives, however, in the form of Mekum and his band of soldiers who come to the planet for some military training. Blindly considering any indigenous humans to be "hostiles," Mekum's soldiers set out to wipe the planet clean of any such opponents. What they didn't count on is the presence of Todd, who then takes it upon himself to save his new community by battling the soldiers.

If they're fans of Russell ("Stargate," "Executive Decision") or of sci-fi action films, it's a good bet they will.
For strong violence and brief language.
  • KURT RUSSELL plays a stoic soldier trained from birth to be the ultimate fighting machine. As such, he kills many people in battle, and finally comes to the aid of a small outpost of people by killing other hostile soldiers.
  • JASON SCOTT LEE plays a similarly trained soldier who kills many people under orders of his commanders.
  • JASON ISAACS plays an egotistical colonel who orders his men to kill many people without checking to see if they're armed, dangerous, or even the enemy.
  • CONNIE NIELSEN plays a caring woman living in the outpost.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    "Soldier," the latest Kurt Russell starring vehicle, is a sci-fi action film that can be best summed up in one sentence: At least it's better than "Escape From L.A." Then again, that's not saying much and one can only hope that most films can manage to pass that cinematic litmus test.

    Even so, this clunker is just one more torpedo blow to the hull of the once mighty Warner Brothers, the studio that is still reeling from its other bombs released in the last year. Not trying to be serious like Kevin Costner's silly "The Postman," and not as utterly awful as "The Avengers," this picture has a few okay moments, but can only be considered as yet another potential disaster for the WB.

    A hodgepodge of storylines, characters, and even music lifted from other, better made sci-fi films, this movie may please action fans once things get moving in the second half, but for the most part this is an unimaginative retreading of past cinematic successes.

    Despite being penned by former Oscar nominee David Webb Peoples (who wrote "Unforgiven," "Twelve Monkeys" and the sci-fi classic "Blade Runner"), the picture is surprisingly bland for a sci-fi action film. After an effective, but not particularly imaginative opening where we see a montage of Todd's training over many years, we then get stuck, like that stoic character, in a small village setting last seen in "The Road Warrior," "Waterworld," or any number of post-apocalyptic settings.

    It's not until the second half when the bad guys show up -- in the form of Caine and his fellow soldiers -- that the nonstop action begins. Unfortunately, any semblance of a plot -- other than Todd killing them -- is consequently jettisoned and the film runs on autopilot to its predictable conclusion.

    All of which is surprising since the film is helmed by Paul Anderson who directed last year's highly stylized and suspenseful "Event Horizon." Despite this film's elaborate sets and production values, the village setting, the military "crawlers" and nearly everything else about it has that hokey, cheesy and decidedly fake look -- usually found in so many similarly plotted films -- that certainly doesn't help this picture and its lack of any genuine suspense.

    The acting, of what little that actually occurs, is comparable to any "B" sci-fi film. Although Kurt Russell (the "Escape From New York and L.A." movies, "Breakdown") has pumped himself up for the role, he's not doing much more than playing the typical Schwarzenegger automaton bit -- sans the wisecracks, or for that matter, any substantial dialogue.

    Despite the efforts to show there's some human left under the dehumanized conditioning (including a -- sarcasm alert -- "touching" shot of Russell crying in slow motion), there's little reason to empathize with the protag's predicament, particularly since he seems so handy at dispatching the "villains."

    That in itself dredges up another problem. Although we know we're supposed to root for the good guy and despise the villains, the people Todd kills are simply soldiers conditioned to follow their orders (which is to kill the civilians), and beyond that we know absolutely zilch about any of them.

    To make matters worse, beyond Jason Scott Lee -- who showed such promise in "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" and is completely wasted here -- the other soldiers show no signs of their superior genetics, and simply prove to be just a continuous fodder chain for Russell to off one by one (or in groups when trying to be more efficient).

    The rest of the acting is mediocre at best, with Connie Nielsen ("The Devil's Advocate") limited by her flat character, and Gary Busey (an Oscar nominee a long time ago for "The Buddy Holly Story") who similarly can't do much with his limited character. When he finally seems like he's going to, the filmmakers abruptly remove him from the movie.

    Overall, the film isn't much more than a combination of "Total Recall" (musclebound guy saves remote village on planet), "Aliens" (musclebound woman saves remote village on planet, with some flamethrowers thrown in, as is the score that's nearly been "copied" here), "The Road Warrior," "Waterworld" and -- well, you get the idea -- and consequently lacks any sense of originality.

    Or, for that matter, much common sense or logic. While we understand why Todd must fight Caine in hand to hand combat at the end of the movie rather than simply shoot him like everyone else (because that's what the "action film" handbook dictates must be done), it comes across as nothing but sheer stupidity. Although other films (in particular, the "Lethal Weapon" ones) can somewhat get away with that, it doesn't work here.

    Then there's the whole matter of why the "bad" soldiers -- with all of the planets in the galaxy from which to chose -- just so happen to decide to visit the one Todd's on (see above handbook under "convenient occurrences"). Or how Todd manages to stand amidst hurricane force winds and reel in a man who's being blown completely horizontal in the air (sure, he's strong, but c'mon). The list could go on and on, but I believe the point has been made.

    Although the second half is easy enough to sit through for the ample amounts of sheer wanton action violence (if you're into that sort of thing), it clearly doesn't make up for the film's many deficiencies.

    Without the proper buildup to give such violence the needed oomph (if it's going to be done, it might as well be done right) and featuring a near emotionless, two-dimensional protagonist you can never fully get behind, the film never has a chance to take off. All of which is fine because you probably wouldn't want this bomb flying overhead knowing it won't be long before it hits the ground with a thud. We give "Soldier" a 3 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Violence is rated as extreme due to all of the bone crunching fights and deaths that occur from hand to hand as well as weapon related conflict. Blood and gore nab the same rating due to the results of such violence, and some viewers may find some or all such scenes (and others) as a bit tense.

    Profanity is heavy due to several uses of the "f" word, but the rest of the profanity is rather limited. Beyond the obvious bad attitudes of the villains, however, the rest of the categories are surprisingly void of major objectionable material. Nonetheless, should someone in your home wish to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at what has been listed.

    Of special note, for those concerned with repetitive, full screen flashes of light, some of that occurs during this film.

  • None.
  • Blood squirts onto a window as Todd and other boys watch some dogs and a wild boar fight (that we don't see).
  • We see several bloody bullet holes in a woman who's been shot.
  • After an exhibition fight between Caine, Todd, and several other soldiers, two of them are dead (and rather bloody, including one with a pool of blood on the floor next to his head), and both Todd and Caine are also rather bloody, with the latter having his eye gouged out (and his face is very bloody).
  • More blood comes from Todd's mouth after he's knocked down in a sandstorm.
  • Cutting carrots for Sandra, Todd accidentally slices through his finger, spilling some of his blood.
  • We see a little bit of blood on a metal punching "bag" (more like a large muffler) that Todd is repeatedly punching.
  • In a flashback we see a boy whose face is bloody after he's been punched.
  • Blood pours from a man's face/eye after he's been stabbed there.
  • Both Todd and Caine are very bloody after another hand to hand combat scene.
  • We see a bloody bullet hole in another man.
  • We see urine running from Mekum's pants leg and onto the floor.
  • Obviously Colonel Mekum has both for not only being egotistical, but also for ordering the deaths of innocent people.
  • Some may see Todd, Caine and the others as having both for killing plenty of people, but they are soldiers and are following orders. Likewise, some may see the military as having both for taking young kids and training them to be efficient killers.
  • Scenes listed in "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers, and the entire second half of the movie is one long sequence where Todd surprises, attacks, and kills the soldiers (who occasionally come after Sandra and others).
  • A sudden windstorm nearly blows a man into an old, but now spinning farm combine (that will shred him if the others can't hold him back).
  • A man's head is nearly crushed by a slow moving, but continually approaching large gear as Todd, in the midst of a flashback, holds the man there until the last moment.
  • Several scenes involve poisonous snakes that slither toward people, strike out at a child, or slither up and across two people sleeping in bed.
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Knives/Missiles/Explosives: Used to wound and/or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Moron" and "Bastards."
  • Some kids may want to imitate the fight scenes.
  • A person suddenly grabs Sandra.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and action-oriented music plays throughout the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 2 "f" words (with another possible one), 2 "s" words, 1 ass, 1 hell, 1 damn, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap, and 3 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "Oh God," "God" and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • Todd briefly stares at Sandra's clothed breasts (as does the camera).
  • None.
  • Sandra must cope with her husband's (or significant other it they're not married) death (as must her child), but little is made of this.
  • The role of soldiers in society.
  • Whether genetic engineering would make a better soldier, or even a "normal" person.
  • Blood squirts onto a window as Todd and other boys watch some dogs and a wild boar fight (we don't see that).
  • Although we don't see the actual shooting, we hear an adult soldier shoot and presumably kill a boy in training who can't keep up with the others.
  • Todd and others practice their machine gun accuracy and judgement by blasting apart "cardboard" dummies.
  • We see montages of many battles in which Todd and others fought that show many people being killed by bullets or explosions, including a woman who Todd shoots through (and kills) to kill the bad guy behind her.
  • Hanging on several chains many feet above the ground, Caine battles Todd and other soldiers during a prolonged fight demonstration. Many severe punches and kicks are delivered to all, resulting in one man falling to the floor and dying and another falling and getting caught on one of the chains (same result). Todd and Caine continue to battle with Todd getting Caine in a headlock. Caine then bites into Todd's arm who then rips out Caine's eye, who finally sends Todd falling to the ground where he lands, presumably dead (but he's not). All of the combatants are rather bloody after this, and Mekum shoots the man who's hanging upside down in the head.
  • Sandra cuts off a poisonous snake's head, Mace kills another, and a boy later kills a third.
  • Todd sees flashbacks of violent skirmishes in the past where people are shot and killed, and Todd shoots and kills other soldiers. He also sees one where he fights another kid in class and pummels the boy with many punches.
  • Todd and Mace flee several military crawlers (huge trucks) that fire bullets and explosives at them. An explosion finally wounds Mace, he loses a lot of blood (not seen) and then dies.
  • The soldiers open fire on the villagers with machine gun fire and explosives, wounding and killing many of them, and another man is burned by the output of a flamethrower.
  • Consequently, Todd goes after the soldiers and kills them by the following means: He slits one guy's throat. He shoots another two with a rocket/grenade launcher. A falling propellor impales another soldier. Todd shoots two more men dead. A soldier is thrown into a snake pit where he's bitten to death. Todd stabs another man in the face/eye (with blood pouring out). He shoots two more men dead with a machine gun, and then even more who also get blown back by an explosion. Three more men are shot dead and another is killed by grenades dropped into a vehicle. He kills another soldier by breaking his neck.
  • A flying piece of debris impales a soldier during a sandstorm, and others are blown away.
  • The soldiers fire more machine guns and missiles at the villagers who are injured or killed.
  • Some soldiers are crushed by a falling bus.
  • Todd smashes a crawler (truck) into another one.
  • Todd and Caine get into another prolonged and vicious hand to hand combat fight where each delivers many severe punches and kicks to the other (along with smashing heads against poles, throwing bodies, slicing guts, breaking wrists, etc...).
  • Mekum shoots and kills another officer.
  • A huge explosion devastates a planet (and kills at least three people).

  • Reviewed October 21, 1998

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