1991, R, 91 min. Directed by Daniel Petrie. Starring Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coggan, Andrew Divoff, Lou Gossett Jr., T.E. Russell, Denholm Elliott.
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., April 26, 1991
Machine guns and adolescent boys -- oh hold me back. Honestly, no one expects me to like this kind of film, but they wrong me. I had a pretty good time at this fast moving little film about the insanely devoted son of a Colombian drug dealer who, with his small terrorist army, takes over a prep school to force the release of his father. The schoolboys, misfits all, pit their skills at thwarting authority figures to work against the terrorists. Simple enough stuff here, you can see it coming for miles down the road, but Petrie keeps it tight. He makes the most of visual discordances like helicopters in the school quad and artillery mounted atop the school's ivy covered towers. He also plays skillfully with heavily layered relationships for just as the terrorist leader, Divoff, is eager to please his father, the boys in the school, however conflicted their feelings are, are conscious that their fathers are watching. As the headmaster, Gossett plays the kind of father boys really want to have: tough, fair and tender. And finally, Petrie is the son of well-known director Daniel Petrie, Sr. -- in making this his directorial debut, he shows a willingness to put himself into his work. But let's not get carried away. Toy Soldiers is little more than macho posturing for young men searching for their identities. As such the image of a beefy Astin sporting a machine gun is not especially healthy nor is it especially imaginative. There is an attempt at balance with the younger, nerdier intelligent kids having a role in their own salvation and a representative cast including kids of all colors. For those concessions and for directorial competence, I am grateful.