Newcity Chicago

DIRECTED BY: Paul Anderson

REVIEWED: 11-02-98

Kurt Russell, star, has about three lines in "Soldier." But whatever outrageous fee he is being paid was far from wasted on pumping up his dinner plate-sized tits and - even more impressively - his ability to keep a straight face during this mediocre action tale about the forging of a disgruntled uber-soldier. Things look promising during childhood at the violence conditioning center, where the ruthless-to-be are forced to watch a pack of dogs maul a wild boar and where young Todd (played by Russell's son) unblinkingly bloodies a classmate. But once Todd is deemed outdated and dumped on Waste Disposal Planet Arcadia, the tale turns sluggish. Todd is immediately greeted by a snuggly bunch of wide-eyed ragamuffin fringe-kids and soon after, a song by Loreena McKennit hovers down. Aside from a few nice touches (the family that takes him in lives in a gutted Air Iceland plane), Arcadia is your standard Ye Olde Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland of the Three Suns. In the future, we've come to realize, every one will look like renaissance folk - tattered scarves, nubby sweaters, peasant skirts - all in hues of rust and brown and olive drab. Rather than developing any unique aspects of the Arcadian plight or Todd's emotional thaw, the film shorthands it. One glimpse at the breast of his female caretaker (her face wizened with Nordic age) is enough to bring him around. Russell simply lacks Schwarzenegger's facial deadpan to fill a straight face with feeling, and Todd's exile in a Gestapo longcoat only makes us yearn for the big, final fight. But when it comes, it's unremarkable except for the sound of its punches - which have the low, woofer-waffling thud of a heavy gray, foreign sedan door being shut, as opposed to, say, the cracks you hear in Westerns or the rich knocks of a "Die Hard" movie.

--Ellen Fox

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Mortal Kombat

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