25th Jan2015

‘Toy Soldiers’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sean Astin, Louis Gossett Jr., Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, Andrew Divoff, R. Lee Ermey, Denholm Elliott, George Perez, T.E. Russell, Shawn Phelan, Michael Champion, Mason Adams | Written by Daniel Petrie Jr., David Koepp | Directed by Daniel Petrie Jr.

toy-soldiers-blu

Regis High School, an exclusive prep school for delinquent teenage boys, becomes the target of a terrorist attack from Columbian drug lord and terrorist Louis Cali, who has travelled to the US to free his drug kingpin father. With a team of ruthless mercenaries, Cali invades Regis High School in an attempt to capture the son of the federal judge presiding over his father’s trial. As Cali takes the students hostage, the FBI and US Army remain helpless. Within the school, however, is a group of rebellious and mischievous students, led by Billy Tepper and Joey Trotta, who decide to put their expertise in avoiding authority to good use. Now years of bad behaviour are about to pay off…

Pardon the language, but I f**king love Toy Soldiers, I have since the very first time I saw it back in October 1991. Back then I thought no one was cooler than Sean Astin’s authority-baiting bad-ass Billy Tepper, even if I did question why he and his mates liked to sit round in just their undies (something I still ponder about today).

Toy Soldiers is the kind of film that, literally, wouldn’t be made in today’s over-sensitive climate. A teenage boys dream if you will – after all, what teenage boy wouldn’t like to take on authority figures armed with their ingenuity and a handful of gadgets/weapons? Of course back in the late 80s/early 90s it was the cinema that kids flocked to, over and over again, so much so that big-budget R-rated action flicks like this could be guaranteed to make back there money before debuting on VHS… Today? Not so much. Not only would this film not have the budget, it probably wouldn’t even make it into cinemas. Which is yet another reason why I love this film so. Not only is it a product of it time (the 90s were honestly the best era for action movies in Hollywood), it’s also the last of its kind. As the 90s moved on, big-screen action movies aimed themselves at the older demographic as teen-friendly action became something that was watered down for younger teens thanks to the PG-13/12A certificates.

Fair enough, the fashions and the anti-establishment attitudes are somewhat dated by today’s standards, but what hasn’t dated is the action. Toy Soldiers is one part action movie and one part teen wish-fulfillment flick: taking a leaf out of the Die Hard school (pun intended) of movie-making, using all the tropes laid down by that flick, and mixing in cliches from teen movies of the 80s. It works because screenwriters David Koepp (who would only 2 years later pen Jurassic Park for Steven Spielberg) and Daniel Petrie Jr. (the man behind the Beverly Hills Cop series and Turner & Hooch) – who also directs – treat both genres with the same respect. Take out either and you’d still end up with a great movie.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Petrie Jr. compiled a fantastic cast of actors for the film, a cast that is a two-sided as the film. On the one hand you have teen stars like Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton and Keith Coogan and on the other you have actors such as Louis Gossett Jr. Andrew Divoff, Denholm Elliot and R. Lee Ermey, who have made their name in both serious roles and in action movies such as Iron Eagle and James Bond. It’s the same type of [some would say unexpected] casting that made Die Hard such a phenomenal success.The teens bring the fun, the older actors bring the gravitas – a perfect mix for this type of genre film.Plus any movie that features Louis Gossett Jr. is always +100 bonus points for me (its a damn shame he never had the same box-office success in the past decade as he did in the 80s and 90s).

This new Blu-ray from 101 Films is a barebones affair, without even so much as the trailer for an extra. However who needs bonus features when you have a film as great as Toy Soldiers; and especially when it looks this good in high definition. To be fair the picture quality looks grainy in places, but thankfully there’s no print damage (bar the Tri-Star logo intro) and I have ZERO doubts this is the best we’re going to see this film get.

Even though the film seems to now be a perennial TV favourite, this Toy Soldiers Blu-ray is still an essential purchase. The film is released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 2nd by 101 Films as part of their increasingly awesome “Cult Movie Collection”.

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