The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Soldiers of Fortune (2012)
This one has been on Instant for a long time now, and I've been meaning to get to it. The cast list is prodigious to say the least: Christian Slater, Ving Rhames, Colm Meany (we always want to do films with Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members), Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan, and James Cromwell. How could I possibly ignore that? And how could that possibly be bad? Well, we'll see. Also, our buddy Mitch at The Video Vacuum hit this one too, so you can go there to see what he thought.
Soldiers of Fortune stars Slater as a special forces guy who's dishonorably discharged after he punches a CIA agent (Colm Meany) in Afghanistan that's about to kill a member of his unit. Poor and in need of cash, a woman comes to him with a proposition: take four billionaires into battle, bring them home alive, and the money they get will be enough for him to fix his problems and enough for her and her brother to fund the resistance to liberate the small Black Sea Island she's from from the evil regime that's terrorizing it. And it just so happens that that regime's security head is none other than Meany, Slater's old nemesis. Sounds like two birds with one stone if you ask me.
This one is pretty rough. To start with, we have this construct of training billionaires to fight that bogs the story down immediately. It's an interesting idea in theory, but in practice it's a series of bad montages with off-beat music and bad comedic asides. From there nothing else is ever developed. The baddies aren't developed, Slater isn't developed, the woman who recruits him isn't developed; all we get are these billionaires, who are not people we really want to know that well anyway, and because there are so many of them, we never get to see any of them developed well either. The problem with that is, we wonder why we're here, what the point is. If it's for the action, what we get is not all that compelling beyond a few moments here and there. For instance, when the rebel villages is raided by Meany and his men, it's supposed to be tense and action-packed, but instead we see the woman who recruited Slater running around ducking her head like we're watching a behind the scenes featurette-- it was that unconvincing. Between the plot that was a mess, and the action that was hit or miss, Soldiers of Fortune is a skip for me.
I don't know what we're doing with Christian Slater here either, because he was really good, but his character was so sauteed in wrong sauce it wasn't funny. He's playing a special forces guy that saw real action in Afghanistan trying to show these rich boys that it's not really a game out there. The thing is though, he's doing the same thing in a real life way by acting in the movie! I like the potential message to the consumer of films like this: that what you see isn't what the real thing is, and you shouldn't delude yourself into thinking seeing a bunch of action films makes you a soldier; but by having Slater be the messenger you cut his legs out from under him as a character, plus, the movie itself isn't realistic either, it's still a movie! I can't blame Slater for that though, he did his best with the role. As far as I can tell, as an actor, he hasn't had a DTV dud performance, even if some of the films like this one have been.
Here we have Sarah Ann Schultz being held by the woman who recruited Slater (if you see her real name on imdb you'll understand why I don't use it here), and I wanted to use this moment to talk about how this was indicative of a much bigger problem in the film. Schultz's character was the daughter of the colonel who runs the island, and she's introduced to us as a psychotic femme fatale, and the one real weakness of the colonel, as you can get to him through her. So we get that introduction that they go out of their way to give us at the beginning instead of getting on with the action, yet they only use it for a quick moment at a plot point near the end. Why bother if that's all you're going to do? And this was the whole film, things introduced and never fleshed out, so it's like our time is wasted constantly. The thing is, this could've been a great underpinning for a better plot: kidnap Schultz earlier, create more tension, delve deeper into the characters, and then if the action scenes are still lackluster, at least they have more purpose; and if you're not going to go in that direction, forget these big introductions that lead us to believe you will.
All right, let's try to go through this cast. Ving Rhames plays an African arms dealer, complete with a bad accent. Why make Ving Rhames into a goofball? He can't do it, he's too bad ass for us to believe it. Sauteed in wrong sauce. Colm Meany would've been a great baddie, had he been developed. He was great at the beginning, but he only has a few other scenes. Again, why are you giving him to us as this awesome baddie if you're not going to use him? Sean Bean played a metal magnate or something. He's Sean Bean if you're wondering. Dominic Monaghan played a video game designer who creates really violent video games. For some reason his character has a broken leg, but it was one of those "plot convenience theater broken legs", meaning it's broken when the plot needs it to be, and not when it's more expedient. James Cromwell plays a cell phone mogul. I think he's supposed to be the new fangled version of the Texas oil man, but, as much as he tried, it wasn't written well enough to come off. Finally, imdb says DTVC favorite Tim Abell is in this, but I didn't really see him. There's one scene that's an ad for the rich people go to war camp that Slater is recruited to work for, and I thought he could have been in there, but if that's so, it's a tiny non-speaking part. On the one hand I think it might have been for the best because this wasn't the best movie, but on the other, it would've been cool to see him in this, and cool to see him act opposite all of these great names.
Finally, I noticed this great blue bird in one of the establishing shots. When a film is the kind of slog this one was, an avian buddy like this can be a welcomed sight. I wish we had more birds in the film, because we really needed them. Just a big ol' bird sanctuary for 20 minutes of film would've been great.
Okay, I have no idea what's happening here, so I might as well wrap this up. Even with the cast, even with the quick runtime, even with the availability on Netflix, this is a skip for me. It was like a bad City Slickers paradigm, or worse, Soldier Boyz, and between the lackluster action and the bogged down plot, I was looking for all the avian friends I could find for support. Unfortunately they were few. (I believe I've officially lost my mind.)
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1678051/