Throwback Thursday Review: “Solo” (1996)



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Posted August 24, 2017 by

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The 90s were full of sci-fi, action flicks having to do with cyborg soldiers. Obviously, movies like Terminator and Universal soldier come to mind, but dig deeper and you will find many more, less celebrated robo-warrior movies. Smaller budgets, less star power, and worse scripts were all elements of these movies, but they also could often be a lot of fun. “Solo” is one such movie.

I went through a big action/sci-fi kick in high school. My weekends included Blockbuster Video, Lots of junk food, and an infinite number of Van Damme, Segal, Stalone, and Nic Cage action movies. There were so may good ones to choose from, but for some reason I rented “Solo” probably around five times. I think it might have had something to do with the fact that it was rated PG-13, so my younger brothers could watch it with me. Whatever the case, I loved me some “Solo”.

The plot of the movie is a simple one… at least at first. Solo (Mario Van Peebles) is created by the U.S. government, to be the ultimate soldier. Fifteen times the strength, ten times the speed, and zero times the conscience of the average human. The only problem is that, on his first mission, Solo does in fact display apprehension at the idea of killing innocent civilians.

The General in charge of the operation (Barry Corbin) is none too pleased about Solo’s newfound conscience, and orders that his creator (Adrien Brody) wipe his memory and deactivate him. Well… Solo ain’t having that, being as his program’s primary directive is to “Preserve self”. So, he hijacks a chopper and takes off. The General is fuming at this point, and he sends Colonel Madden (William Sadler) to retrieve Solo by any means necessary. I should mention that, for some unknown reason, Colonel Madden really, REALLY doesn’t like Solo. His reasons are never explained, but he is downright obsessed with blowing the gentle-hearted cyborg to smithereens.

Anyway, Solo crashes his helicopter, his power supply runs out in an ancient temple, and he wakes to find himself being taken in by local farmers who are being terrorized by a group of militant rebels. You still with me? Good because that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The locals believe that Solo is an ancient deity, sent to be their savior. Solo agrees to help them defend themselves in exchange for using their generator as his personal battery charger. Soon, the rebels and Colonel Madden’s crew join forces to take ol’ Solo out, but he has different plans.

A rumble-in-the-jungle battle makes up the final third of the movie, and is by far the most entertaining thing here. I have to give the movie credit for finishing strong. The first 50 minutes are so cheesy and full of bad dialogue, though, that by the you get to the fun stuff you almost don’t care. Somehow, Van Peebles pulls of the difficult task of portraying a soulless android, poorly. He overacts what should be the easiest role of his career. Physically, he pulls it off though. There are some legitimately fun action scenes, and even a couple of cool special effect tricks. Sadly the movie also has WAY too much going on. Social commentary, religion, a little kid sidekick, and even a weird love interest are all present. That might be okay if director Norberto Barba ever focused on any of those things for any amount of time. Maybe the blame lies with the screenplay (which was shockingly adapted from a novel?!). Either way the majority of the movie is a convoluted mess.

I am man enough to admit that I enjoyed the hell out of “Solo”, as a teenager. I am also honest enough to admit, as an adult, that it is not a very good movie. Sadler is fun as the murderous villain, and like I said before there is some cool action stuff. Overall though it is a 5 out of 10. Good enough to revisit once every ten or so years, but only when you’re in the mood for something you don’t have to care too much about… because you won’t.




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