Soldiers of Fortune (2012): A Video Game Film


I like Christian Slater. I first saw him in the cult classic 1988 film Heathers where he played teenage burnout and cool-guy flake J.D. and he knocked his performance out of the park.

He’s a more than capable actor who has a voice I’d kill for, yet, his role choices have not always been the best. He was, perhaps, the only good thing about Alone in the Dark (2005) and his very short-lived television series – My Own Worst Enemy – died a quick death.

But since I am a fan, when I saw Soldiers of Fortune on Netflix, I had to watch it.

Directed by Maxim Korostyshevsky (his first film) and filmed in the Ukraine for a budget of an estimated eight million dollars and a fairly impressive cast, Soldiers of Fortune looks like a video game war film.

The cast, as I’ve just mentioned, is pretty impressive, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, James Cromwell, and Dominic Monaghan all do a good job despite the two-dimensional characters they play. Again, as I like all the actors that appear in the film, I find it hard to diss them or their performances; given that their roles weren’t that deep to start with.

The film opens using CoD type graphics with a voice over to describe the events. In a scene straight from a video game’s version of war, a two-man team are infiltrating a suspected Taliban stronghold. While Slater’s character, Captain McCenzie, observes, Captain Reed (Freddy Rodriguez) walks into the camp disguised as a woman.

He gets quickly spotted and taken prisoner. McCenzie decides to get him out, but before he can act a jeep pulls up with CIA man Carter Mason (Meaney) and the whole operation is called off by the “higher-ups.” McCenzie ignores the order and goes in to get his man out.

Walking into the village, he dispatches a slew of bad guys, finds where his guy is being held hostage and after shooting Mason, collects Captain Reed. The next time we see both men, they are civilians and have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.
Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.

After this opening scene, we know where this movie is headed. It is not to be taken seriously (at least I hope  that was the film makers intention) and if you view it as a bit of very unrealistic fun, you’ll enjoy the film.

You could be forgiven for feeling like the film is a “made-for-television” movie of the week. The stunts aren’t too spectacular, the action not too violent or gory and the props; looked like props. I lost count of the amount of times that the guns being bandied about had plugs in the barrels and were obviously “movie” guns aka replicas.

Playing out like a film version of (fill in game title here) the film almost feels like a third person shooter war game that has opted to lose the players input and just be a video game cut scene, albeit a long cut scene.

Still the action moves quickly and fairly painlessly. It was a fun film to watch and besides the video game aspect, it felt a little like the redheaded stepchild of The Expendables. *And before you start screaming, I mean absolutely no disrespect towards redheaded stepchildren. It’s just an old saying. Okay?)

I’d give the film a 3.5 stars out of 5 only because of the great cast list and, props aside, the film looked stunning with brilliant locations and a cinematography that showed where a lot of the 8 mil went.

FUNFACT: (courtesy of Wikipedia) – When the film was finished it only premiered on 50 screens in the US. Understandably, it did not pull un too much in the area of Box Office returns. In Russia it opened on 500 screens and did a bit better but its overall profit is still under 2 million dollars. It appears to have been fairly popular in the United Arab Emirates as well.

An "action" shot.
An “action” shot.
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