A Movie A Day #331: The Soldier (1982, directed by James Glickenhaus)


The Soldier is really only remembered for one scene.  The Soldier (Ken Wahl) is being chased, on skis, across the Austrian Alps by two KGB agents, who are also on skis.  The Soldier is in Austria to track down a KGB agent named Dracha (Klaus Kinski, who only has a few minutes of screen time and who is rumored to have turned down a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark so he could appear in this movie).  The Russians want the Soldier dead because they’re evil commies.  While being chased, the Soldier goes over a ski slope and, while in the air, executes a perfect 360° turn while firing a machine gun at the men behind him.  It’s pretty fucking cool.

The Soldier, who name is never revealed, works for the CIA.  He leads a team of special agents.  None of them get a name either, though one of them is played by the great Steve James.  When a shipment of Plutonium is hijacked so that it can be used it to contaminate half of the world’s supply of oil, The Soldier is assigned to figure out who is behind it.  Because terrorists are demanding that Israel withdraw from the West Bank, Mossad assigns an agent (Alberta Watson) to help out The Soldier.  She gets a name, Susan Goodman.  She sleeps with The Soldier because, she puts it, the world is about to end anyway.

The Soldier was obviously meant to be an American James Bond but Ken Wahl did not really have the screen charisma necessary to launch a franchise.  He is convincing in the action scenes but when he has to deliver his lines, he is as stiff as a board.  Fortunately, the majority of the movie is made up of action scenes.  From the minute this briskly paced movie starts, people are either getting shot or blown up.  Imagine a James Bond film where, instead of tricking the bad guys into explaining their plan, Bond just shot anyone who looked at him funny.  That’s The Soldier, a film that is mindless but entertaining.

Ken Wahl may have been stiff and Klaus Kinski may have been wasted but there are still some interesting faces in the cast.  Keep an eye out for William Prince as the President, Ron Harper as the director of the CIA, Zeljko Ivanek as a bombmaker, Jeffrey Jones as the assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense, and George Straight performing in a redneck bar.  Best of all, one of the Soldier’s men is played by Steve James, who will be recognized by any Cannon Films aficionado.

Surprisingly, The Solider is not a Cannon film.  It certainly feels like one.

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Quickie Review: Fast Five (dir. by Justin Lin)


It would seem that the summer blockbuster film season starts earlier and earlier with each passing year. It used to be that the film which premiered during the Memorial Day weekend was the one which began the season, but now films which come out first weekend of May get to have that honor. Then 2011 decides to change things up and herald the summer blockbuster season not in May but the last weekend of April. The film which gets to do the honor this year looks to be Justin Lin’s fun and very action-packed fourth sequel to the undying street-racing franchise which began with 2001’s The Fast and The Furious. This fifth entry in the franchise was simply titled, Fast Five.

The series had always been about the world of illegal street-racing whether it was set in Los Angeles, Miami or Tokyo. There was always that aspect of the story which tied all four previous films together. It would have skilled, beautiful women who followed the scene and, of course, the fast cars themselves. Things began to change a bit with the fourth film, Fast and Furious, as the street racing became not the main focal point of the story but just an aspect of it. The franchise began to take on an action-thriller role. While it was good to see changes to the franchise that began to get stale that fourth film didn’t pull off the necessary changes as well as it should’ve. It would seem that Justin Lin was just testing the waters and finally got what he wanted with Fast Five.

This latest film in the franchise barely has any street-racing in the film. There’s a short sequence 2/3’s of the way in and Lin also inserts a couple of obligatory slo-mo scenes of street-racers gathering to show-off their rides and women, but Fast Five is more of a caper film than a street-racing one. It actually owes a lot more to the Ocean’s 11 films than anything else. We have returning character in Vin Diesel’s Dominic Torreto and his sister Mia (played by the radiant Jordana Brewster). Paul Walker as his erstwhile ally Brian O’Conner returns as well. It’s these three who anchor the heist team which would include returning characters from the previous four films. There’s the hothead Vince (Matt Schulze) from the first film. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) come in from the second film. Sung Kang’s character Han from the third film appears so does Gisele, Tego and Rico from the fourth film. These returning character make-up what I would only call as Torreto’s Ten.

Fast Five begins just as the previous film ended as O’Conner and Mia break Dom out of the prison bus taking him to prison. From there the film moves to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where these three fugitives take on a job to earn themselves some money only to realize that they’ve inadvertently gone to work for Reyes, Rio’s most powerful crimelord (Joaquim de Almeida), who now has his sights on Dom’s crew. Not to make Dom’s life any easier is a Federal Task Force sent in to take him back to the U.S. in the form of Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and his elite team of agents. Dom and his crew will now have to escape not just Reyes and his thugs but Hobbs and his men. It’s the plan to do just both that make up most of the film’s story.

Justin Lin does a great job in not just explaining the details of the heist beforehand, but he does so without getting the film into too much of an expository exercise. He shows just as much as tell the job Torreto’s Ten must pull off if they’re to ever win their freedom. It’s the set-up to the heist and the execution of it which tie-in all the many, well-staged action sequences the film has. While street-racing has been relegated to just obligatory short scenes this film doesn’t lack for exciting carmeggedon and mayhem. From the prison bus escape to begin the film to the daring train robbery which follows it right down to the bank vault heist which takes up the last 10-15 minutes of the film. That sequence alone makes this film worth seeing as we see a 10-ton bank vault being hauled at high-speed through the streets of downtown Rio. Buildings get totaled and cars get tossed and smashed like tinker toys. Yet, as the PG-13 rating would point out we don’t know or see if anyone actually dies.

It’s that rating which keeps this film from ever joining the exploitation and grindhouse pedigree of such car mayhem films as Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. But despite the limitations a PG-13 rating puts on Justin Lin’s Fast Five the film ends up becoming a very fun and exhilirating action-heist film that gives some new life to a franchise that was down to fumes. It helped that we get some good performances from most of the leads (Paul Walker still can’t do anything outside of performing as a surfer from California). It was also the addition of Dwayne Johnson as Federal Super-Agent Luke Hobbs which gives the film some of it’s fun. Johnson was able to match Diesel’s Dominic Torreto for the title of most badass in the film. In fact, the fight between the two was one of the highlights of the film (even though I still think Johnson probably would kick Diesel’s ass 100 out of 100 times).

Fast Five doesn’t disappoint and more than earns the honor of starting up 2011’s summer blockbuster season. Justin Lin has delivered a film in this franchise which stands out from the rest and more than likely reboots the series from a street-racing one and into just a plain old action series. His work in this film and how he handled the action also adds some credence and justification in him being given the next film in the Terminator franchise. He may just be the one to bring back some life into that dying franchise. So, strap on the seat belt and grab onto to something because Fast Five may just be one of the few films this summer that delivered on everything it promises in terms of action and fun.

Fast Five (Super Bowl TV Spot)


I know that the Fast and Furious franchise has been milked for as long as decent, but this latest tv spot for the fifth film in the series has made me rethink about not seeing it when it first comes out.

It looks to be concentrating more now on the action and less on how cool the cars are though from the looks of it they’re still driving around i some cool ass cars. Plus, this fifth one has the Rock back. I don’t mean Dwayne Johnson, but the Rock. Ever since he dropped the Rock moniker he had relagated himself to family-friendly films. He was truly cool on-screen when he was just the Rock.

Fast Five comes out this April 29, 2011.

Fast Five (Official Trailer)


Like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise this Vin Diesel racing franchise has been milked liked it has never been milked before. While it hasn’t reached the level of the Saw series this action-racing film series is definitely getting up there.

What started as Hollywood’s look and attempt to show underground street racing has become a joke amongst those who actually race for real. There’s a term for people who began to trick out their rides with elaborate color schemes, flames shooting out of exhaust pipes, body kits that changed the looks of the car right down to computerized control panels. Those people were going “fast and furious” and that wasn’t a compliment.

Real racers try to lighten a car and add horsepower instead of adding so much crap the way the people in the films do. They got the right cars to use whether it’s the so called “ricers” like Nissan Skyline to Subara Imprezas to Honda Civics or American classic muscle cars like the Dodge Charger R/T to Plymouth GTO’s. Everything else in terms of racing in this series are laughable, but entertaining and to Hollywood that is all that matters.

The last film in the series, Fast and Furious, has begun to move the franchise away from underground racing and into the realm of an action-thriller except with people racing cars. I’m fine with that and this latest entry in the franchise looks to move it even further from it’s roots. Plus, it has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing another role to move him away from his Disney-fied roles of the past five years.

From the look of the trailer I think I will enjoy this flick. It’s not trying to reinvent anything plus it has Gal Gadot in it and that to me spells win.