Solo (1996)
Solo (1996)

Genre: Action and Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: August 23rd, 1996 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Norberto Barba Actors: Mario Van Peebles, Barry Corbin, William Sadler, Jaime Gomez, Damian Bechir, Seidy Lopez, Joaquin Garrido, Adrien Brody

 


 

“I

f he’s wounded beyond repair, we throw him away. No one will cry when Solo is gone.” And he has no social security number. This makes Solo (Mario Van Peebles) the perfect android weapon for military use – and well-suited for a top secret mission in Latin America, where he can be used to neutralize an airstrip guarded by guerillas. As with many super-weapons (he’s about fifteen times stronger than a man), the problem resides with the humans who control him, particularly when they’re financially and morally corrupt.

Deployed alongside elite troopers, Solo infiltrates the enemy base, analyzing the differences between combatants and non-combatants and carefully positioning explosives. When the sentient machine determines that there are an unacceptable level of women and children amongst the targets, he begins removing charges, resulting in his handlers proceeding to detonate the remaining bombs and attack the area prematurely, hoping to complete the mission without the android’s help. Solo sustains significant damage, is tended to by designer Dr. Bill Stewart (Adrien Brody), and must utilize backup generators until his power management chip can be replaced. He’s also given a good scolding by his superiors, who can’t understand why Solo’s decision-making (in regards to human casualties) can override directives. General Clyde Haynes (Barry Corbin) orders that Solo be returned to the Palmdale facility for additional testing and reprogramming – outside a combat zone environment. When Solo intercepts the decommissioning instructions, he steals a helicopter and flees his command submarine, intent on fulfilling his primary directive: preserve self.

Skipping over all of the ethical conundrums and thought-provoking ideas inherent in artificial intelligence scenarios, “Solo” goes straight for action and pursuit. Resembling something like “Predator” mixed with “The Terminator” (as well as hints of “Universal Soldier” and “Surviving the Game”), the lone soldier is hunted through treacherous jungle terrain while worrying about tending to his failing mechanical systems. And there are plenty of flashbacks to detail how Solo came to be created and why Colonel Frank Madden (William Sadler) has been an antagonist from the very beginning of “Project Solo.”

There’s something amusing about placing the highly advanced, extremely powerful, one-man-army (based on Robert Mason’s book “Weapon”) into an impoverished, oppressed, technologically deficient village, where he can aid extreme underdogs in extraordinary ways. Like in “The Magnificent Seven” but with only a single supersoldier for hire, the peasants and priests are instructed by the perfect killing machine in the ways of self-defense and laying booby-traps – while he picks up a few things about regular people (“You have much to learn about humans, my friend”). Curiously, the story also heralds “Soldier” (released a few years later), which takes the basic premise a bit further into space opera/science-fiction territory. Though it’s not terribly intelligent (the differentiation between living and existing is somewhat clever), “Solo” is crafted to be an adventure film above all else; and it doesn’t entirely disappoint when it comes to blowing things up, discharging firearms, and giving Solo an opportunity to dish out payback to his brutal squadron of superior officers. A touch of humor (on occasion, utter hilarity), some awe-inspiring shots (one of which steals from “Apocalypse Now”) and stunts, and a solid one-liner or two make this a bit more than the average, serviceable actioner. But not much.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10