School's out…and action's in!
Regis School is where America's most powerful families send their sons when they've been kicked out of almost every other prep school in the nation. Prominent government officials and mob bosses alike have children enrolled in Regis' academic classes. Among the students is a band of misfits (Keith Coogan, Wil Wheaton, T.E. Russell, George Perez) led by the troublesome Billy Tepper (Sean Astin, Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring), who adores causing headaches for the school's headmaster (the late Denholm Elliott, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and the strict but fair dean Mr. Parker (Louis Gossett, Jr., Iron Eagle). The boys' courage and guts are put to the test when a band of terrorists seize the campus, led by the ruthless Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff, Wishmaster). Cali's reason for his actions: his father, a famous drug czar from South America, is being held in a United States prison. Cali's demands are that if his father is not released within a specifically allotted time, he will start killing the students and faculty one by one. Not surprisingly, this doesn't sit well with the FBI and other governmental forces that quickly surround the school. Now it's up to Billy and his band of rebellious buddies to stop Cali's reign of terror in the halls of Regis.
I have, for some reason unknown to myself and the rest of the cosmos, had a strong affinity for Toy Soldiers ever since I saw it as a teenager over ten years ago. Yes, the film is technically fashioned out of parts from almost every other action movie ever made. In fact, when you get right down to it, Toy Soldiers really doesn't have an original bone in its body. Yet the movie remains a fun, goofy little pulse on the wrist of the action genre. This is due in no small part to the well executed (err, no pun intended) performances by Gossett, Jr., Astin, and the supporting cast. The actors who play the students are all genuinely likable folks—Astin comes across as smart-ass yet funny guy, while Coogan (grandson to legendary actor Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan) is given the best comedic lines. Andrew Divoff—so fearful as the Djinn in the Wishmaster horror series—hones his menace chops with the role of the resident baddie. Alas, the action doesn't come close to that of a great, explosive thriller—while a few helicopters and bazookas are on hand, the bulk of the film's action arrives in the form of characters running for their lives against gunfire and hand grenades. Ah, the 1990s…for Americans, there was nothing better cinematically than seeing an international terrorist/drug baron/arms dealer gets his just desserts at the hands of delinquent heroes. Times sure have changed, eh? Whereas the film played well in 1991, by today's standards Toy Soldiers would be regarded in bad taste in light of 9/11. I guess maybe that's why Toy Soldiers is a guilty pleasure—it seems that, for a while at least, films of this nature are a thing of the past.
Toy Soldiers is presented in a very disappointing 1.33:1 full frame transfer. How, exactly, is Columbia picking out which film gets a widescreen transfer and which film doesn't? Sure, Toy Soldiers doesn't have the scope of Die Hard, yet I still think it would have been best served with a fine anamorphic transfer. Only small amount of grain and dirt shows up from time to time. While the colors and black levels are all solid and well saturated, fans will be rising up arms against this pan and scan version of the film. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and is only slightly better than the video portions of the disc. Though surround sounds and directional effects are generally lacking, overall the mix is free and clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
Since Toy Soldiers was given a lackluster transfer and audio mix, it wasn't surprising that a few various Columbia theatrical trailers were the disc's only extra features. Bafflingly, the original theatrical trailer for Toy Soldiers is nowhere to be found on this disc.
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