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Soldier, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"Trashily Entertaining James Bond Retread"
3 stars

While not having done much in the way of box-office business back in the day, it's one of those obscure catalog titles that's worth taking a chance on.

The thick-haired, lanky, handsome Ken Wahl made an excellent starring debut in Phillip Kaufman's 1979 The Wanderers and two years later followed that up with a fine supporting performance in Fort Apache, The Bronx where he managed to hold his own with Paul Newman, so it's nice to see him headlining the silly but enjoyable action picture The Soldier. Written and directed by James Glickenhaus, who gave us the acceptable Death Wish clone The Exterminator, the movie has at most two-hundred lines of dialogue in its eighty-minute running time, and that's fine, because the numerous action sequences are imaginative and adept enough so we needn't concern ourselves with incidentals like plot mechanics in a piece of escapist entertainment like this. What there is of the story involves a Russian plot to detonate a nuclear device in the middle of the Saudi oil fields, which will ruin fifty percent of the world's petroleum reserves for the next three-hundred years, which will result in the collapse of the heavily-oil-dependent West; only if Israeli forces withdraw out of the West Bank will the threat not be carried out. (We're not supposed to ask why the Soviet Union would care about the Israel-Palestine conflict, or why such an unprecedented gas shortage wouldn't hurt them, as well.) With less than five days before the deadline, the U.S. president, who'll have to launch a strike against Israel if they don't cede to this terrorist demand, calls on a specialist five-man unit within the CIA to thwart the plan, whose number-one agent is known simply as The Soldier. An expert at firearms and explosives and evasive driving and every other skill James Bond possesses, Wahl's hero is a man of few words, but this limited but instinctive actor wisely doesn't lean too heavily on two-fisted machismo to make an "impression" -- he's confident enough that his understated work will suffice, and it does. Though a low-budget production, The Soldier takes place on and was shot in Germany, Israel, Austria and the United States, and there's a muscular physicality to it that's impressive in a way a lot of major motion pictures aren't. Yes, a ski chase with armed assailants is blatantly cribbed from For Your Eyes Only, and the addition of a female Mossad operative for the sole sake of a romantic interest is perfunctory. But Glickenhaus, with an invaluable assist from Tangerine Dream's hard-driving music score, maintains a full-throttle rhythm throughout that'll keep you glued to your seat; he obviously loves movies, and though not yet a world-class entertainer, he certainly can't be accused of laying down on the job.

If you've got a Sunday afternoon to kill, you could do worse than giving this a look-see.

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originally posted: 02/25/14 14:23:27
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  02-Aug-1982 (R)



Directed by
  James Glickenhaus

Written by
  James Glickenhaus

  Ken Wahl
  Alberta Watson
  William Prince
  Gary Fisher
  Klaus Kinski

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