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Soldier's Fortune
(1992)
 

Director: Arthur N. Melle                     
Cast:
Gil Girard, Dan Haggerty, Charles Napier


All of us at one time or another have been peeved by the viewing of a bad movie. Most time this happens, even though we may be having negative feelings about the experience, we acknowledge that the writers, directors, and actors of these movies were at least trying to entertain us. Even in a lot of the worst schlock, such signs can be found. Then there are movies like Soldier's Fortune - movies that don't show any sign that anyone involved in the project is trying, and any smidgen of merit found in the movie is just there by accident. It's the kind of movie where you want to grab the participants by the lapels and yell at them, "Why? Why did you not just waste your time, but my time, by making this movie? What was the point?", before delivering them a certain kind of blow that no man should have inflicted on him (except those who make movies like this.)

I was seeing red with this movie - not just figuratively speaking, but because from the opening scene, most of the footage we see has a red shade to it, which is a common attribute found in many cheapies, like Zoo Radio. So even if we see the interior or exterior of a mansion, or a Mercedes, it looks cheap and shabby with the redness in the film stock. We actually don't get to see too many scenes set in or around a Mercedes or a mansion, though. In fact, most of the movie actually seems to be shot behind buildings, in back alleys, or in abandoned warehouse districts. So you can imagine how these already unattractive locations look under a red glare. But that isn't what makes this movie especially tacky to the eye. No, what really got my goat was that in about 20% of the movie, there's a noticeable white scratch running down the left side of the screen. Remember, this is a movie that was made in 1992. When you can't even take care of the footage in the small amount of time it takes to get it out of the camera and into the new direct-to-video release sections in video stores, that's real incompetence.

After an opening credits sequence involving cheerleaders seen practicing in slow motion (don't ask), our story starts. Teenager Jenny belongs to a rich family, but the director shows us that she must be a nice girl since she has a poor best friend, Millie. Isn't that nice? Anyway, Jenny's mother's secretary Deborah picks them up to take them home, mentioning during the journey that she has to take another route home because of construction, instantly telling us that a kidnapping is just seconds away and that she's part of it, despite the movie's subsequent lame attempts to hide her involvement until later. A helicopter, which had somehow been hiding undetected behind a hill in this suburban neighborhood, pops out full speed behind the hill, swoops down, and both girls get swiped.

Susan, Jenny's mother, is naturally concerned about the situation, and decides to ask her mercenary ex-husband Robert E. Lee Jones (Girard) to help with the ransom delivery. Of course, he wonders why he should help, so she explains why, in the first of many lines of awful dialogue this movie has. "I know you - only too well! And I know if something goes wrong, you'll take revenge! And the police can't do that, you can! And if, God forbid, something should happen to my daughter, I want them dead! And the only way I can be sure of that happening is if you're involved!" And (Hmm, I'm getting in the spirit of this movie), oh yeah, she then decides to tell him that (bet you can't guess....) "She's your daughter, too!" Robert then shows her he can spout off some bad dialogue on his own by replying, "I have a daughter? I'm a soldier, not a negotiator!"

Maybe written like this, the sheer awfulness that I felt with lines like this doesn't come off. But believe me, with horrendous acting as the protocol here, lines like, "I hate kidnappers!", "You're a feisty hellcat, I grant you that!" and when Susan tells her ex-husband (yes, he's a W.A.S.P.ish snot who has nothing but bad things to say about our hero) that, "He's ruthless, relentless, and loyal to what he believes in" - well, I just cringed. So of course this means it's time for us to be introduced to some more bad actors, with Robert deciding to round up his old mercenary buddies. Among them are B movie regulars George "Buck" Flower and Dan Haggerty, a nerd, a blind guy (!), and Millie's army trained sibling Alex - though, ho ho, to everyone else's surprise, Alex turns out to be a GIRL!

On the villains' side include some Spanish guy with a Nazi accent, and Charles Napier, who, despite being the ringleader, is only seen once briefly before the climax. Then he's dispatched of pretty quickly, which made me wonder why they bothered to fork over the extra bucks for a minor star like him if they never had plans to use him extensively. For that matter, you have to wonder why the character of Alex is there, because after the team is attacked by the kidnappers about halfway through the movie and she goes after them (and is kidnapped by them while staking them out), the rest of the members of her team barely seem to notice that she's gone.

Well, it could be argued that in the climatic showdown, she gets away to save Jenny. But...how did she escape? We never see how, just suddenly see Alex and Jenny come out of nowhere in a truck. Well, it could be argued that we get an explanation later. But...it sure sounds funny the way we hear her explanation while she's in a vehicle - almost as if they looped in this explanation. She explains that she got away by using her special bullet-firing belt buckle, which we saw earlier. But...why would they show and explain it to us extensively if they were not going to show it in action? Well, it could be argued that maybe there were some problems during the shoot. But...(etc.)

Whatever you might think of this movie at this point, it is nothing compared to what your opinion will be if you actually watch it. This movie is not only thoroughly stupid, it's desperate. We see the heroes making their plans, then afterwards, while they are enacting their assigned duties, have to ask each other what they have to do. The casting department apparently couldn't find a young male to be cast for the bit part of a mugger, so they have a premature balding man in his thirties dressed up in plaid and a headband. When Robert questions Deborah about the kidnapping, the movie repeatedly cuts to previously seen footage of the robbery for no apparent reason, except to extend the movie's running time. That reason may also explain why at T-Max's bar, there is a long sequence of Robert leaning back to watch and listen to his blind friend jam on the electric guitar.

Don't even think that there might be some sporadic scenes of action to liven things up. Most of the movie is consisted of people talking, saying stuff we have heard in countless other movies, and directed with absolutely no life to it. The few times there is any action, a feeling comes across that the director didn't like doing these scenes, which may explain why almost all of them seem to be over in thirty seconds or less. There is a brief - very brief - moment during the final action sequence that manages to bring a sense of chaos and a fight for survival that no doubt many gun battles in real life have had. But as I indicated earlier, when seeing the sheer awfulness of everything else in this movie, any merit that you can scrape up seems to be there by accident. Funny, you can say the rest of the movie is a kind of accident as well.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: The Mercenary, Raw Force, T.N.T.

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