Movie Review: “Soldiers of Fortune”

Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Directed by: Maxim Korostyshevsky
Genre: Action Adventure

“Soldiers of Fortune” opens with the line “Welcome to Snake Island gentlemen; you may never leave,” and viewers instantly know what to expect from the movie. This is the type of film wherein stellar actors have no problem chewing the scenery and giving a wink and a nod to the audience.

The film introduces viewers to Captain Craig McCenzie (Christian Slater, “True Romance”), a man who recently retired from the military after a tour in Afghanistan. The movie even shows him meeting and playing with a group of small children while in the military before showing him decimating the village with his Special Forces group. When war threatens the border between Romania and the Ukraine, a group of men hires him for a secret mission.

McCenzie must lead a band of men to the secret hideout of Colonel Lupo, steal supplies from him, and return those supplies to the revolutionaries who hired him. The only problem is that none of the men on his team know the truth about the mission. The group consists of wealthy businessmen who paid large sums of money to take a fun, extreme vacation into the jungle.

His squad consists of Roman (Sean Bean, “The Hitcher”) who made his fortune in precious metals, a cell phone millionaire named Sam (James Cromwell, “The Artist”), arms dealer Grimaud (Ving Rhames, “Mission Impossible”), and a game designer by the name of Tommy (Dominic Monaghan, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”). The men think that they will have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, not realizing that everything they experience is real.

While “Soldiers of Fortune” lacks the excitement of a big-budget Hollywood movie, it does have some fun scenes that keep audiences entertained. Director Maxim Korostyshevsky is a relatively newcomer, but he makes it clear that he knows how to direct an action movie. He doesn’t skimp on the action scenes, and sometimes he dives right into the action himself, making viewers feel like they are in the middle of a battle scene. When he gets close to two women battling on the water while riding jet skis, viewers will be on the edge of their seats.

A common flaw with modern action movies is that the directors spend too much time on the back story of the main characters, but that doesn’t happen with this film. The movie opens with shots of McCenzie in Afghanistan, trying to save a fellow officer. Reed (Freddy Rodriguez, “Planet Terror”) is only moments away from losing his life at the hands of a rogue CIA agent. The movie then jumps to the present day, spending little time on the circumstances that forced McCenzie to take this job.

Action movies need more than just blockbuster scenes, which is why “Soldiers of Fortune” introduces some lighthearted moments. The one-liners in the movie are so unforgettable that some viewers might find themselves quoting the film for weeks to come. “The Grim Reaper always gets paid,” said in a deadpan voice, and “Let’s go kill some bad guys” are just some of those memorable lines.

Although the film does have some good moments, it also has its fair share of bad ones. Apart from the main cast, the acting is sub-par at best, and some of the scenes are impossible to believe. The director does an admirable job of creating realistic action and battle scenes, but there is only so much he can do on a limited budget. It sometimes seems like he spent too much of his budget on one scene and had to cut back on the next scene, which draws the viewer out of the film.

Despite a few problems, the movie does have great performances from Christian Slater, Bean, Monaghan, and Cromwell. Cromwell gives his character a realistic Texas accent, and he is believable as a man who might take this type of vacation. Monaghan brings a humorous element to the movie, playing the man who realizes something is wrong but is too busy having fun to do anything about it.

Bean has a history of action movies behind him, which sometimes weakens his character. When he shows disbelief or surprise at the action going on around him, viewers might find it hard to believe. The real standout, though, is Slater. While he has his fair share of straight-to-DVD movies in his background, he gives an excellent performance that might lead some to wonder why he isn’t getting more work.

“Soldiers of Fortune” might sometimes play like a TV or low-budget movie, but it does have its standout moments. While it won’t make any best-of lists, it’s a fun way to spend 94 minutes.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars