Toy Soldiers (1991)

Years before Lord of the Rings, Sean Astin played quite the troublesome youth in Toy Soldiers, not to be confused with Small Soldiers (the one where the toys attack each other). Sporting a bad attitude and a rather loud haircut, Sean Astin leads a band of misfits in Regis High, a boarding school for expelled children of influential people in society.

Astin makes his presence known as the troublemaker as he crosses out ‘Regis’ and sprays ‘Rejects’ instead. Quickly the film is delved into a hostage story as the boys of the school are taking hostage by Luis Cali, a notorious terrorist. His motive? To kidnap the boy, whose father is presiding as judge over Enrique Cali’s (his father) trial.

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Having never really heard of this film, I was presently surprised what unfolded on screen, as it delivered quite an enjoyable viewing all round. I honestly thought the film was going to a low certificate and was bewildered when the body count rose on screen. This even included someone’s throat being slit.

Without Dean Parker’s (Louis Gossett Jr.) presence, and the terrorists methodically assuming command of Regis School, Billy Tepper (Sean Astin) takes command of the misfit clan and comes up with a devious plan to save Regis from the terrorists. Daniel Petrie Jr created some fantastically tense scenes, to effect that it was edge-of-the-seat stuff. Especially as Astin escapes the school’s compound and tries to get information to the guys on the other side about the terrorists, all within his lunch hour.

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Sean Astin, Will Wheaton and Louis Gossett Jr lead this rather youthful film, and all of it is simply enjoyable. Being just short of two hours, the film is refreshing and works well with what it sets out to do. Admittedly, I was surprised about the ever-rising body count throughout the film, but that comes with a fifteen-rated film (that I had to actually double check). This film luring you into a false sense of security with the whimsically academic music and the charm that oozes out of the film.

Although my favourite parts to this film is the tense parts, there is a downside to said sections of the film. The outcome is rather foreseeable and although you are wrapped up in the edge-of-your-seat feeling, it is replaced by the feeling that everything will be fine for the mischievous band of heroes.

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Admittedly, this film is in by no means perfect. But it’s different. It uses the framework for a film where children take the fight back to their captors, much like Ritchie Rich, but not so much to the same degree. Instead, it has a certain maturity that Ritchie Rich, didn’t have. Of course Toy Soldiers had more of a leeway as it was fifteen-rated film. The very youthful rogue Sean Astin – a far cry from The Lord of the Rings’ Samwise Gamgee – makes the film an enjoyable watch as he seems to be having fun on screen with his co-conspirators making 110 minutes melt away along with the charmingly whimsical score.

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