why Cranky is in pain
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Starring Mario Van Peebles, Barry Corbin, and William Sadler
Directed by Norberto Barba

Okay, here's the problem. If the writer has penned the kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger "I'll be back" line (the kind of line that will make an audience member go "whoa" when he hears it and giggle when he tries to imitate it) he shouldn't be laughing when he hears it. Solo is full of lines like that.

Solo is the story of the ultimate fighting machine. It looks like a man (actually it looks just like a really pumped Mario Van Peebles) and fights like a Frank Miller comic book superhero. The General in charge of the project (Barry Corbin) figures he can always have another one built if this one breaks. There's a Colonel working the project (William Sadler) who is a really, really bad man; who really, really doesn't like the robot (cyborg, whatever) and wants it dead. We don't know why he's this way, he's just the bad guy. He also has a really bad crick in his neck. We know it's bad because he keeps cracking it. That's about the speed of the character development in this flick.

Here's the problem. The Gen-X scientist who programmed Solo also instilled in it some human qualities. Qualities like not killing innocent civilians. Qualities like preserving one's own neck, if need be. He also built in heat sensors, extraordinary audio capabilities, the strength of fifteen men and a bulletproof body with built-in power backup modules.

Those modules become important when the 'borg violates his orders to destroy a South American rebel camp airstrip, because civilian non-combatants would be killed. His main power module cracks and is removed. When the General orders him reprogrammed, he flees. Really, really bad man Colonel is assigned to bring the 'bot back in one piece. It should be a piece of cake because the backup power will run out. Solo then, apparently, blows himself up and it all pretty much goes downhill from there.

Solo is a pastiche of old movie bits and badly choreographed action scenes that try too hard to look big budget on nickels and dimes. You'll see the injured cyborg stumble through the jungle like the Frankenstein monster. You'll see happy, poor peasants fighting and dancing like the Ewoks of Endor in Return of the Jedi, and you'll have no trouble recognizing a classic watery entrance from Apocalypse Now. Bits and pieces from Samson and Delilah are there, as well as a scene reminiscent of Bane breaking the Batman's back from the DC comic book.

Solo tries to have it both ways. It wants to imply the ultraviolence of an R-rated movie, while avoiding the blood and guts to get the PG-13. A quick note to the producers: if you're going to impale a human body on anything large and pointy, guts are going to fly. Budget for it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Solo, he would have paid . . .


For the inadvertent laughs. Then again, one woman two rows back was yelling "this is the greatest!" as Cranky and a friend walked out of the theater. Most everyone else was in a hurry to get out.

Click to buy films starring Mario Van Peebles
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