Soldiers of Fortune was directed by Maxim Korostyshevsky, written by Alexandre Coscas, Robert Crombie (The Good Soldier Shweik), and Joe Kelbley, and stars Christian Slater (True Romance, The Adderall Diaries), Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden), Sean Bean (Possessor, The Black Death), Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings Franchise, Lost), Ving Rhames (Death Race Franchise, Echelon Conspiracy), James Cromwell (Surrogates, Star Trek: First Contact), Charlie Bewley (Hammer of the Gods, American Renegades) , Oksana Korostyshevskaya (Love & Dance), and Colm Meaney (Gangs of London, Confession). It follows two ex-soldiers as they guide thrill-seekers through a warzone where they come upon a battle they must engage in.
The Plot: Soldiers of Fortune is as bonkers as it sounds, and that doesn’t make it good. In the middle east, army captains McCenzie (Slater) and Reed (Rodriguez) are on a mission to do, uh, something, when it’s compromised by CIA agent Mason’s (Meaney) arrival. McCenzie saves Reed to Mason’s dismay and they’re discharged due to Mason’s influence.
Years later, they’re broke and gambling for scraps; but approached by Cecilia (Korostyshevskaya), a rich thrill-seeker who wants to go to an island warzone. Also on-board are millionaires St. John (Bean), Tourneur (Rhames), Tommy (Monaghan), Herbert (Bewley), and Haussman (Cromwell); all of whom want to train on the island, now reigned over by Mason and Lupo. The writers don’t ask the audience to take it seriously, but they never manage to achieve the campy glory that would’ve made the movie memorable. McCenzie and Reed take the job where it inevitably goes south and wrongs must be righted.
The Characters: Caricature is the name of the game here, and while that would be easy to accomplish, the writers instead try to make sense of the stupefying decision-making process that most of them have instead of just running with what they have. Craig and Reed share a thirst for vengeance, and Reed has a family that he can’t provide for. Due to the writing glossing over any real development, they come off as flat.
Cecilia is Soldiers of Fortune’s requisite island tie-in where she was born and raised. The movie starts cynically, to a point of black comedy, but her attachment to the land is in direct contrast tonally. All of the millionaires are deliberately over-the-top, painted in broad strokes of comedy during their introduction, but this angle gets dropped in an attempt to make them legitimate heroes. I was highly entertained by Haussman though; a man who wants to die so his wife gets none of his money. Mason is just Eric Roberts’ character from The Expendables. At least the actors had fun, as shown in their performances.
The Action: Korostyshevsky has no hesitations in getting straight into the action, from the title card to about 10 minutes in, Soldiers of Fortune is all action. It’s hard to deny the enthusiastic approach to the movie, but the poor staging of the vast majority of the motions dulls what should be a striking impact layered with a dark worldview. Nearly every explosive scene resembles the worst of cheap 80s action movies: with no geography, no choreography, no flair, and no coherence.
Clearly, Soldiers of Fortune had some money thrown at it, and most of that must’ve went to the cast and the pyrotechnics, which are cool to look at but again leave little impression due to the lack of finesse in their filming and the subpar characters. The most engaging sequence the movie has is the training montage. While it’s not a real “action” scene, it does make use of the very likeable cast and has a sensical flow to it. If the rest of the movie’s draw were like that things would be different.
The Technics: Again, it is clear that Soldiers of Fortune had some money; not much, but enough to stretch out to make Soldiers of Fortune look good. Aside from the action sequences, the cinematography is alright. It’s not special by any means but the locations lend themselves extremely well to cameras. Pacing is mixed. Korostyshevsky takes time to sit down with bad people in between the action scenes in the second half of the movie, which only ends up hindering it. If there were fewer of the millionaires that McCenzie had to take care of, the downtime may have worked better in its attempts at grounding crazy characters; but it’s spread so thin that they all remain caricatures.
Soldiers of Fortune never finds its footing; stuck in between satire and strait-laced, and nothing ever compels due to heel-turns and misplaced sympathy, but it’s fun to watch the actors enjoy themselves.
MGM has made Soldiers of Fortune available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital platforms. And FilmTagger has some alternative suggestions if that isn’t quite what you were looking for.