Solo is the perfect weapon, a machine created to do deeds that any normal human cannot accomplish, Solo is a super soldier…with a heart of gold. And to the U.S military, it’s a big no-no to have the ultimate killing machine being able to make decisions that can jeopardize missions, due to a conscience. Deciding to fix the problem, the military think it best if Solo were shut down for some reprogramming. However, Solo ain’t down with that and being programmed to preserve himself, he jacks a helicopter and fly's away to safety. He is chased down by the military, but after Solo crashes into the side of a mountain, they lose sight of him as he escapes into the vast surrounding jungle.
How on Earth 1996’s Solo (directed by Norberto Barba) ever received a theatrical release is beyond me. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, well, it is a bad movie depending on your taste, but it reeks of direct to video, yet it was released in theaters. It speaks to no one that is not a hardcore fan of mindless action movies, anyone else, would scoff at the sheer lack of original story telling involved and the silliness of it all. Solo is a menagerie of the action film’s and tries to deliver multiple messages as well as tries to be too many things at once.
Solo befriends a young kid and that whole storyline would seem to be tailor made to make this PG-13 movie, an action movie for the whole family. That’s not something that really works for adult action film fans as seen with movies like Robocop 3. Even Terminator 2 brought in the kid aspect, which worked great when I was young, but that film hasn’t aged well for me and I have a much lesser appreciation for it in my adult years. I think a lot of it has to do with how the Rambo films became socially acceptable for children maybe. Though, the Rambo movies never catered to kids and always remained rated R film’s with a copious amount of violence and sweat.
With the young kid that Solo meets, comes an entire village who take Solo in after he is found hurt and low on battery. The villagers are plagued, or better yet, enslaved by a militant group of guys that do bad stuff. What kinda bad stuff do they do? I didn’t catch that part, but they have automatic weapons and speak a foreign language, so they must be bad. The villagers see a chance to be liberated by Solo and he is soon thought to be an ancient savior sent to help them through their dark times. Solo teaches the villagers how to fight for themselves and in return, they let him use their generator to recharge his battery.
Are you won over yet?! Maybe the idea of Solo, the leader of the villagers, wearing a burlap vest without a shirt underneath will sell you?! No?! How about the cute young female villager looking to get a “charge” from Solo? Still no? Maybe the military teaming up with the bad news militant group to take out Solo catches your attention? No? Really?! What if I were to tell you Solo was played by MVP? You know, Mario Van Peebles?! Now I gotcha! MVP is one of those guys that is very hard to put a finger on…he comes from the loins of the well respected, DIY creator of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Melvin Van Peebles and has made his own splash in a positive way with New Jack City.
MVP has also made many a splash, right into the toilet with some of his character choices, as well as some of his actual acting. He can be good, but that would not be the case with Solo. He physically can handle the part and Solo was totally something meant to launch a franchise, as well as make MVP an action star. But even playing a robot, he still comes off as wooden, and playing a robot should be pretty easy, one would think.
Like I said, if you are not someone that can get into a mindless action movie, then stay far away, but if you don’t mind a little sacrificing of your brains, then there is some fun to be had with Solo. William Sadler plays the villainous Colonel Frank Madden, whom is in charge of hunting down, and bringing back Solo. Sadler is, as always, fantastically menacing and he hates Solo for no apparent reason and will do whatever it takes to take him out. Maybe there is an undercurrent of racism with the character, like he doesn’t dig the thought of a “brotha” stealing his shine and being the best of the best? Or it’s just plain old jealousy.
What makes Solo worth every second comes in the form of a big time SPOILER ALERT!! Not that spoiling Solo would ruin many film lover’s day, but I shall not spoil anything without warning. At the end of the film, when Solo has prevailed and beaten Sadler’s character Frank Madden and all the bad guys, and just when you think it’s all over…Super Solo shows up! Super Solo is the next level of Solo, the even more advanced, advanced machine/bringer of doom, and he is here to take out, Solo! It doesn’t end right there, oh no siree bob, Super Solo is modeled after another soldier, and that soldier just so happens to be Frank Madden strapped with an oversized, badass gun arm to top it all off!
For a movie that is essentially a thoughtless action flick, there sure is a whole lot going on. I didn’t even get into how Solo tries to connect with humans and their emotions either, but he does, thus showing that even though he is a hunk of metal and wires, he is capable of feelings too. Solo is a movie, where an incomplete killing machine is asked what he wants to look like and after seeing an Air Jordan commercial, he says “Like Mike”…need I say more?