Solo (1996) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Mario Van Peebles’ brief bid as an action attraction peaked with this Rambo meets Terminator hybrid. Saddled with an unproven director in Norberto Barba, and laced with an uproariously derivative screenplay that is improbably taken from a novel, Solo is on its own in terms of down-right awfulness. The most clever moment in the entire screenplay, is a scene in which the robot solider chooses a shaved head look to appear, “Like Mike”. When a Michael Jordan reference is the highpoint of creativity in a Sci-Fi/Action thriller, than you know you’re in trouble.

Solo is the perfect solider. He is proficient in all forms of combat, he has no loved ones, and if injured in combat the controllers will simply throw him away. No one will miss Solo the government will just build a newer version. After a faulty test mission, the government backers decide to pull the plug on the robotic solider project, leaving the android in a state of dysfunction, Solo refers to his prime directives and the self-preservation fail-safe mode kicks into gear. Leading the android to steal a helicopter and take refuge in the jungle with a group of Colombian villagers.

A special forces group is assembled to retrieve the awol cyborg and return him to base without incident. But when the members of the village are burned alive and slaughtered by his former unit, Solo realizes that he must fight back against this illegal military operation.

Solo is a boring action picture that recycles so many elements from other genre films that it would take my whole column listing them out. The screenplay is thin and yet the story takes way too long-playing out. An awkward relationship is set-up between Solo and a woman villager, only to be abandoned in favor of more shoot-em up stuff. The last twenty minutes liven up and William Sadler is appealing as the villain, but the movie as a whole is stiffer than Peebles’ monotone line readings. Look for two future Oscar Nominees in Adrien Brody and Demian Bichir in supporting roles.

Director: Norberto Barba
Stars: Mario Van Peebles, William Sadler, Barry Corbin

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