- on Monday, 02 March 2015 10:44
- by Frank Wilkins
In a world where the word terror has become synonymous with maniacs the world over hurting or killing innocent people in the name of their cause, revisiting this 1991 action thriller has reminded this reviewer it is hardly a new phenomenon.
Based on the novel of the same name by author William P. Kennedy, Toy Soldiers tells the story of a boarding school misfit, Billy Tepper, and his friends—all sons of prominent American citizens—who are forced to try and save themselves and their peers from a terrorist group who hold them hostage and threaten their lives if a drug baron is not released.
Written by Hollywood heavyweight writer David Koepp and the creator of Beverly Hills Cop Daniel Petrie, Jr, this brisk young adult adventure movie is always accused of predictability and mediocre plotting. While it’s true it provides little that one can’t see coming, it makes up for any shortcomings narratively with strong dialogue and very strong performances from the cast. It diverges from the novel, and relocates the attack within America; the character of Billy, played by Sean Aston of Goonies and The Lord of the Rings fame, is a difficult part to pull off, balancing his anarchic qualities with a strength and likability, and he nails it. There are equally strong supporting characters, including Louis Gossett, Jr. and Denholm Elliott, but the standout is Andrew Divoff’s main antagonist Luis Cali.
A movie that predominantly tells its story from the viewpoint of young people would, especially these days, soft peddle the violence of a terrorist situation. Not in this movie. There are no convenient cutaways, and when people die, it is bloody and affecting. This also, in this reviewer’s opinion, raises the bar of this film above its limiting script. There is a sense of danger implied from the moment the terrorists arrive, and their violence helps sell that danger in spades as Tepper and his friends risk their lives in nail biting subterfuge trying to outsmart the bad guys.
The film, more often than not, is shot like a TV movie, which cheapens its efforts. There was a reasonable decent budget of 10 million, but pedestrian camera work and vanilla lighting don’t add anything to the menace of the work.
Actors all around are to be applauded. This is a very strong cast. The young ensemble was in fact nominated for Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture by the Thirteenth Annual Youth in Film Awards 1990-1991.
While weak plotting and a predictable story are fair criticisms of this early 90s effort, you will not find a stronger cast perform a very relevant story about the strength of ordinary people when their lives are put at risk. Timely release on blu ray for this one. Well worth a revisit.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Writer: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan
Genre: Action | Drama
Tagline: Misfits. Underachievers. Rebels. The boys of The Regis School have been kicked out of the best prep schools in America. Terrorists just took over the campus. Now years of bad behavior are about to pay off.
Memorable Movie Quote: "If you take the other chip, the *receiving* chip out of the plane, you can switch it with the receiving chip in the detonator."
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: April 26, 1991
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 2, 2015
Synopsis: When terrorists seize control of a boarding school, a group of troublemaking boys decide to resist them.
Available on Blu-ray - February 2, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A
UK distributor 101 Films has released this under its ‘The Cult Movie Collection’ banner. To be blunt, it is bare bones all the way here, folks. The unlabelled HD transfer, in the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, is nothing revelatory. The contrast and colouring is probably a notch up from the DVD release. It’s a nice clean print but not without its imperfections.
The DTS-HD MA stereo mix is appalling. It’s front heavy, no separation, pretty quiet and does the experience no favours.
There are no features, zero. Zip.