Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Soldier of Fortune (1987)

You wish you were this cool.

A lot of people complained about the magic amnesia bullet in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but bullet-to-the-brain induced amnesia is part of a rich tradition in action cinema. If action films have taught us anything, it's that a bullet bouncing around inside your skull causes nothing more than a mild headache and some temporary memory loss. Such is the case for Vincent Miles (Daniel Greene), wearer of white turtlenecks, hater of music and hero of Pierluigi Ciriaci's Soldier of Fortune. After copping a bullet to the head from a sneaky Russian, the only thing he can remember about his last mission in Afghanistan is chilling out with a bunch of natives while a blonde woman seduces him with some belly dancing. As far as wartime flashbacks go, it could be a lot worse.

Miles leaves the army but pretty soon a couple of government spooks respond to his ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine. They have orders direct from Section Y (that's one letter more secret than Section X!) to take him to meet his former CO, "the Colonel" (Bo Svenson in an eyepatch), at a shack on the Afghanistan border. There he is offered a top secret mission to recover the wreckage of an experimental Russian fighter jet that went down somewhere in Afghanistan. Accompanying him on his mission is a dorky egghead in shorts named Professor Rossi. He is a big fan of rock music and although no specific bands are mentioned I would guess that he is one of those guys who won't shut up about how Pink Floyd is the best band ever. Unfortunately Miles hates music and in fact when Rossi starts listening to his walkman Miles threatens to "shove it up your ass." Well, I know someone who isn't invited to Rossi's next Guitar Hero night.

When Miles and Rossi safely arrive in whatever rocky Eastern European country is passing for Afghanistan, they meet up with their contacts and do their best to evade the entire Russian army using nothing but a dirtbike and an uzi. Between bouts of getting captured and escaping they occasionally manage to check in with the Colonel (codename: Donald Duck) under their secret codenames Hewey and Louie. Dewey is MIA, I guess. Eventually the top brass catch wind of the Colonel's mission and they aren't happy. Apparently he was categorically ordered not to select Miles for this mission but he was like "whatevs" and did it anyway. Naturally the pencil pushers in Washington relieve the Colonel from active duty, canceling the mission and leaving Miles and Rossi at the mercy of the Russian army. As Hondo growls menacingly: "There's a problem at Disneyland. Donald Duck has been replaced."

After getting captured by some Russians and then busted out by some different Russians, Miles runs into the guy who put that bullet in his brain in the first place. He reveals that Miles' real name is Johnny Hondo, which is pretty awesome. It would suck if you found out your real name was Herbert Nerdlinger or something. The Russian is after the Eye of the Prophet, the mysterious artifact that Miles/Hondo was trying to find during his last mission. You see, Hondo was actually working for the Department of Science and Archaeology. Of course! Nobody is going to suspect a government department with such a goofy sounding name! I've never even heard of the DSA, but I guess that goes to show how secret they are.

Eventually Hondo and Rossi escape into a cave where they find the Eye of the Prophet, which turns out to be Ulysses 2000, a shiny high-tech bowling ball that contains all of human knowledge. I think something like that could be pretty useful here on Earth (like at quiz nights) but NASA decided to shoot it into space, where it was believed to be destroyed by a Russian killer satellite. Rossi concludes that the explosion somehow threw it backwards in time, where ancient peoples worshiped it as a god. Duh. Also hanging out in the cave is the woman from Hondo's recurring flashbacks, a psychic named Hanlulu, and she uses her powers to force a massive amount of exposition on the audience.

Due to Hanlulu's psychic powers she's the only person on the planet sufficiently advanced enough to interact with Ulysses. I guess it makes her pretty useful to have around, like a human Google, but it also gives her the power to fry some evil Russians somehow. As the Professor says "this woman is a terrible weapon! She could rule the world!" Luckily their problem is immediately solved for them when Hanlulu is shot dead by a proactive Russian soldier. Hondo and Rossi escape as the cave collapses, a bunch of crappy models are flooded around them and Ulysses explodes. During their escape Rossi breaks off part a stalactite which is apparently a huge uncut diamond, or as Rossi puts it "Tangible proof of the mountain's generosity." As they drive away that sneaky Ulysses comes rolling after them, giving us all a chance to wave goodbye to the camera crew, who are clearly reflected off it's surface. Goodbye Pierluigi!

Since this film was made in 1987 it should go without saying, but Dardano Sacchetti wrote the script. The guy wrote dozens of scripts in the 80s and I think the stress must have got to him by about the 70 minute mark of this film, where it loses any notion of being a low-budget Rambo cash-in and goes bugfuck crazy. Those with a hankering for more Johnny Hondo should check out Afghanistan: The Last War Bus, easily the second best film in the armoured-school-bus-being-driven-through-a-warzone genre of Italian cinema. Those disappointed with Daniel Greene's goofy-looking non-acting will be pleased to know that in that film Johnny Hondo is played by Marc Gregory (aka Trash from Bronx Warriors) whose goofy-looking non-acting is at least more entertaining to watch.

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