1996, PG-13, 94 min. Directed by Norberto Barba. Starring Mario Van Peebles, William Sadler, Adrien Brody, Seidy Lopez, Jaime Gomez, Abraham Verduzco, Barry Corbin.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 30, 1996
A Mexican-American co-production that combines elements of both The Terminator and Yojimbo, and then mixes them with Van Peebles' turbo-charged, balls-to-the-wall acting skills and William Sadler's haunting, laconic grit. Or not. Actually, I think this may have started out life as less of a summer action picture and more of a romantic comedy and become lost somewhere along the way. Judging from the final product, something was lost along the way, and not just the script, either. Van Peebles is the titular Solo, an android prototype developed by the U.S. military for use in situations where flesh and blood grunts just can't cut the mustard. He's essentially Schwarzenegger scaled down, but when his first mission runs afoul of his own emotions (not only can he think for himself, but he can learn, too!) and Army brass decides to pull the plug on him, he turns tail and escapes into the South American jungles, causing evil Col. Madden (Sadler, twitchy as always) to call in some high-powered mercenaries to “wipe him out.” While recuperating from injuries sustained when he intentionally flew his chopper into the side of a mountain (he's cunning, see?), Solo encounters a remote village whose tiny populace is being used as slave labor by neighboring rebels. “I will teach you to fight back,” he tells them, and he does, to great effect. The villagers, in turn, offer their beloved savior an old 20" Zenith television and all the electricity that goes with it. Fun and good times are had by all, until the mercenaries and rebels show up and, well, you know. It's not just that Solo is an endless succession of hoary old action/sci-fi film clichés, it's just that they're done badly. Van Peebles' interpretation of an android puts one more in mind of some monstrously malformed Pinocchio than the gentle giant for which the producers were so obviously aiming. Clumsy attempts at 'droid humor fall flatter than evil mercenaries pushed of high mountain tops, and director Barba, who helmed the above-average Blue Tiger seems to be lost in a sub-par Outer Limits episode. The press kit for Solo hollers, “Summer isn't over yet!!!”, but let's face it folks, it really is.