3 1/2 StarsSoldiers of Fortune seems to be gunning for the same audience that propelled Act of Valor into a surprise box-office hit. This may be appropriate considering that Valor in essence was a B-movie, albeit one with real Navy Seals and the stamp of approval from our military branch. Appearing for the dozen-th time in the last 18 months in a straight-to-DVD flick is Christian Slater. I assume he either loves to work, or he is attempting to eclipse the recent output of Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes and Dolph Lundgren combined. Who would have thought a decade after working with action maestro John Woo, we would finally get the film that solidifies Slater as a viable action hero? In fact looking at the name on the marquee, Slater, Ving Rhames, Sean Bean, Soldiers of Fortune could have received a theatrical release some ten years ago.
After a covert ops mission goes awry in Afghanistan, leading to the death of a corrupt CIA agent, Christian Slater and his fellow soldiers retire to a life of hard drinking and gambling. Thats until the opportunity arrives to make some serious money working as hired help to shape a group of wealthy civilians into battle-ready, elite killing machines. That is the set-up for Soldiers of Fortune, an entertaining action film that is also remarkably short on credibility. Millionaires are being escorted to actual war-zones by former military personnel turned mercenary tour-guides. All the members of this particular staff are highly decorated special operations soldiers, put in place to protect the clients venturing into these hostile territories. This is some roll call, the wealthy clients consist of a wall street magnate, a video game designer, a Texas oil good ol’ boy, a third world arms dealer, and an ex gangster. All who have over-paid to partake in a mission, delivering weapons to a small rebel outpost on the heavily fortified base known as Snake Island.
The middle section of this action thriller teeters on the verge of comedy as Slater and his men attempt to whip these millionaire misfits into form. At times the proceedings begin to venture into Stripes territory, particularly a paintball wargames match that pits the rookies against the professionals. The film quickly recovers from this misstep though, and evolves into an energetic and well staged action flick. There is a certain visual energy that emerges from the skilled direction by the furiously named, Maxim Korostyshevsky. He and the film have the same exciting and bemused tongue in check style that is present in some of Paul Verhoeven’s work. This is the best work from Christian Slater in quite some time, he appears invested and present in his role of mission leader, I must confess I’m a life long fan, but lately Slater has appeared in other movies looking uninterested. Perhaps, working with distinguished co-stars like Rhames, Cromwell, and LOTR alumni, Sean Bean and Dominic Monaghan is the reason Slater seems to have raised his game. Whatever the case may be, this is a very slick looking film that was shot for relatively cheap, yet looks as if it cost twice as much to produce. The plot generates rousing drama and excitement, the film itself packs plenty of spirit, some rough-and-tumble comedy and rip-snorting action scenes. Soldiers of Fortune is one of the year’s biggest staright-to-DVD surprises.
Director: Maxim Korostyshevsky
Stars: Christian Slater, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames