This 'Soldier' is 4-F

October 23, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

A lot of things get blowed up real good in "Soldier," a stubbornly simplistic shoot-'em-up that makes one long for the subtle nuances of "The Terminator."

Kurt Russell, bulked-up like some earlier-model Schwarzenegger and acting more inert than intense, is Todd, a superman among supermen, the best of a select group of soldiers trained from birth to obey orders and kill.

But technology being what it is, there's a new breed of even better, stronger, more single-minded soldiers on the market. In hand-to- hand combat (performed on tiny platforms 30 feet above the ground -- man, this training is tough!), Todd proves no match for the new, improved model, although he does manage to poke out the eye of his adversary (a chrome-domed Jason Scott Lee).

Since the society of the future has no use for losers, Todd is plopped onto an interplanetary garbage scow and unceremoniously dumped onto a faraway planet.

Only, he's not dead yet. And it isn't long before Todd is found and befriended by a group of peaceful space vagabonds who call this place home. Although a little skeptical about having this killing machine in their midst, the group lets him stay long enough to heal -- and become a heroic father figure to a sadly mixed-up kid whose own father has the misfortune of not being nearly as efficient with a high-powered tank gun as Todd.

So it is that this cold-eyed killer begins to see the power of family and develop a conscience, a movie theme as old as "Shane" (a decidedly superior film to which "Soldier" repeatedly shows its allegiance).

And when those newfangled killing machines end up on Todd's new home planet with orders to obliterate any signs of life, guess who's coming to the rescue?

"Soldier" is played out on impressive sets (although some of the special-effects shots look surprisingly cheesy), and the central setup -- one good guy defending helpless innocents from a horde of baddies -- is a movie staple with long-established appeal.

Unfortunately, the film has no characters, only cliches: the good-hearted, if weak, husband; the noble, but lonely, wife who desperately needs a REAL man; the skeptical neighbor; the sniveling authority figure.

The result is a film with plenty of firepower, but no idea about what to do with it. "Soldier" is all brawn and no brain, and while that makes for a good killing machine, it doesn't make for much of a story.

'Soldier'

Directed by Paul Anderson

Starring Kurt Russell and Jason Scott Lee

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated R (strong violence and brief language)

Running time 95 minutes

Sun score * 1/2

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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