Part Man. Part Machine. Total Weapon.
Have you seen Soldier starring Kurt Russel? Or Indio 2: The Revolt with Marvellous Marvin Hagler? Then you've seen this movie. Forgetting the fact that Peebles is a robot, Solo could be considered a mash-up of those two films (though Soldier actually came out two years after Solo). It's that same old story of a soldier trained to believe one thing from his superiors and peers, and learning the real truth when he's thrown into the thick of it. It just so happens that this time the soldier is a robot.
Solo (Mario Van Peebles; New Jack City, Hard Luck, Gunmen) is a prototype robot made for the army; an android killing weapon designed by the military and utilized to enter into a Latin American war to destroy the rebel natives fighting simply to maintain their freedom. On the mission his helicopter crashes into a mountain and he is badly injured and is nursed to robotic health by a native boy and the other villagers. He learns that these villagers are being harassed by a local militia who demand that they build them an airstrip, or something. Contrary to his programming, Solo develops an affinity for the villagers and decides to help them fight back. This displeases his creators who send a destruction order out for Solo, lead by the raving lunatic Colonel Madden (William Sadler; Hard to Kill, Die Hard 2 and my favourite role, The Grim Reaper in Bill and Ted!).
This is a pretty okay deal for the most part. The first 10 minutes and last 20 minutes are, as usual, the best part of the picture, but there's enough action throughout the middle to keep you entertained. It gets bogged down a bit with Solo learning how to dress in robes, comprehending figures of speech and understanding 'this human emotion called love', but for the most part it moves at a fast pace. It's all very polished and has the look of an expensive Hollywood production. I'm sure this probably bombed at the box office and would have been right at the moment when action fell out of favour with Hollywood for a decade, with all the action heroes (Van Damme, Seagal, Lundgren) going DTV. There's plenty of exploding huts, exploding helicopters and backflips (through explosions) to keep people entertained so what more do you want?
Mario Van Peebles plays a good deadpan robot, though he always looks like a kitten that's been mistreated. Arnie pulled off a deadpan yet manic robot face. Peebles looks more like a gentle giant. He still gets the job done and the 'humanity' that he displays forms the centric part of the plot. He also manages to kick a bit of arse, easily dispatching foes in hand-to-hand combat, absorbing hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and pretty damn good at those backflips. His fights do tend to have a PG-13 rating vibe to them with no real believable damage occurring on screen.
Barry Corbin is in this as the General that calls all the shots. I think he might even be wearing the same uniform he wore in Wargames a decade earlier. Adrien Brody (Splice) has a small but crucial role as Bill, the creator of Solo, who of course wants his creation back in one piece; quite an early feature film role for him. William Sadler as Colonel Madden is the highlight here and is as cold as ice to his team, his colleagues and definitely to Solo; he totally goes off the rails by the end and is a joy to watch.
Like I said previously, the final act was the highlight of the movie with the biggest body count, largest explosions and most rounds of amunition (and arrows) fired... and then Super Solo turns up. Solo 2.0, or Solo: The Upgrade if you like. It's on like Donkey Kong in a Robocop versus Robocop 2 fashion as the two cyborgs proceed to tear each other apart. It's a bit of a surprise which person gets "upgraded" to serve this purpose and the final fight is pretty damn decent, if a little short.
This isn't a bad jungle action film with a difference, if you let your expectations drop just a little. It looks flash - something Hollywood does do well - but it's pretty standard stuff within, with a little too much saccharin dripping from Solo's learning experiences. Still, it doesn't deserve to be associated with the death of Hollywood action as much as it would appear on the surface, but there really wasn't much big action at the cinema for a while until the comic franchises came back in to favour again and the Bourne movies took over. That's a shame really, as it's not all that bad and worth your time at least once.
This early R4 DVD has held up well. A nice 16:9 scope transfer and a punching soundtrack. No problems here at all. Runtime around 90 minutes.
From a used store for a few dollars.