When a group of terrorists led by the son of an extradited Colombian drug lord forcibly take over a prestigious boarding school full of the children of the wealthy and famous, the attention of the media and of course the connected and powerful parents, is assured.
Unfortunately great power and influence isn’t as efficient when you are kept at bay by the bad guys pointing guns at your kid’s head, and so the parents must sit outside the fence stewing alongside the special forces attempting to plot a victimless incursion.
Among the mid-teens summarily imprisoned in their own school are a bunch of low level troublemakers, kids expelled from various schools, but with parents wealthy enough to justify them not being given up on. First among equals is Billly (Sean Astin), who fumes at being forced to toe any line – even one drawn by machine gun toting lunatics – and convinces his fellow students that they should use their tools of mischief in a positive way for once. This initially proves a difficult argument, I mean one of these kids is so beyond help that he is already smoking!
The strength of Toy Soldiers is largely in the good guys vs bad guys development. Of course we are genetically engineered to root for the underdog kids, especially when the bad guys are evil foreign drug dealers, but it helps matters when the bad guys show a willingness to not only flex their muscles, but use them – even against young kids.
Louis Gosset Jr and Denholm Elliot play senior staff at the school, and while they don’t really get involved in anything sweaty or violent, their roles are pivotal and their presence adds credibility and tension to proceedings.
Toy Soldiers busts no genres and reinvents nothing. It is little more than Red Dawn with rich kids who wear ties to school, but it nails every action sequence and uses suspense and the macabre knowledge that potential kid-death instantly raises the stakes as assets. It is far better than it needs to be, but ultimately lacks a famous face to grant it longevity. If a young Statham or Christian Bale starred there is every chance this would be remembered more fondly, unfortunately stepping into the furry feet of Samwise Gamgee doesn’t demand that the general public delve into the back catalogue of Sean Astin.
This is one of those rare occasions where that is a shame.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. A movie about sassy ne’er-do-well kids unleashed that doesn’t suck. As rare as a talented Kardashian.