Codename: The Soldier


‘…delirious macho fantasy…’

With the war in Europe providing a live-stream of constant horror, we can seek solace in the faded, rabid fantasies of the past, where there’s nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot. A Cold War action thriller, James Glickenhaus’s 1982 action flick has minimal reputation; I’ve never met anyone else who has seen it and/or liked it, and it’s got a miserable three reviews on RT, all bad. But as a 14 years old renting this on VHS despite being way too young for the certificate, I was one satisfied customer, and my opinion has not changed. As kids, many of us went through the same cycle of James Bond, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, and more; an evolution of strongman heroes that ultimately led to nothing but more of the same macho nonsense. But Codename: The Soldier takes things one-step further; no prisoners are taken and absolutely zero-f**ks given from soup to nuts.

We start as we mean to go on; with shock and awe. A woman pushes a pram in front of an ambassador’s limo one morning in Washington DC; to our surprise, the limo ploughs right through her, only to reveal that the pram is actually full of machine guns. Disguised assassins pick the guns up, but before they can fire on the limo, are gunned down by our hero, the Soldier (Ken Wahl), and his uniformed crew. The Soldier is a fixer for the US government, spotting trouble before it occurs, an agent so secret that even he barely knows who he is. When his handler is killed by a liquid bomb hidden in a light-bulb, The Soldier is cut loose with even the President disavowing any knowledge of his activities. But that freedom allows The Soldier to step in where diplomacy fails; when Russian terrorists steal plutonium bombs and hold the world to ransom, The Soldier organises a US nuclear response of his own…

But there’s plenty of OTT details before we get to the stand-off; there’s some lavish ski and snow chase action that rivals and outclasses the Bond films of the time. Yes, this film has everything, exploding cable-cars, Jeffrey Jones, animated titles, mud-wrestling, hotel-room romance with Alberta Watson, Country and Western superstar George Strait performing his song Fool Hearted Melody, shotguns hidden up sleeves and that thing where Klaus Kinski turns up for one scene in a ski-suit and never says a word; it’s billed as a ‘special appearance;’ and for once, it really is.

Any film that ends up with the hero keeping his appointment with his Russian opposite-number by jumping his silver Porsche OVER the Berlin Wall is delirious macho fantasy, and Codename: The Soldier delivers. Did I mention that the score is by Tangerine Dream, a band who never saw a hotel-room punch-up they didn’t want to drench in a dreamy Restoration-era synth-score? It’s the icing on the cake of this ridiculous film; remake it, reboot it, just do something fast because we need this guy right now. Activate The Soldier!


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  1. Well the effusive praise from your followers is nearly enough to make me want to see this! The ski bit looked awesome. The hero’s teeth though, they would bother me.

  2. Yes, put em in coach–I read 100s of vets & merc’s are heading to UKR–armor up & send in terminators, fixers, & exterminators, winter soldiers and lone wolfs…kill the Doors This is the End and replace with Tangerine Dream’s Stranger Things (2016 Netflix) mix tape. Name Trivia–band misheard the Beatles song where Lennon sings Tangerine Trees & Marmalade skies… Though the plot was a bit confusing, nothing’s really changed–there’s oil, covert ops, disavowing, rogue and rowdy KGB, nuclear bomb threats… Shades of everything old is new again unfortunately. Well done to resuscitate this MI, Bondish action flick!

    • Thanks! As you say, there more things change, the more they stay the same. Oil field ransoms, KGB propaganda ops, it was always there under the surface for anyone who can remember past yesterday’s news cycle…and you cannot go wrong with a Tangerine Dream soundtrack! Sure, this is a 14 year old boys idea of geo-politics, but the fantasy of one person solving all our problems ensures, even if it is just a dream…

  3. OMG! You have just reactivated a cherished childhood memory. I watched this with friends on VHS back in the 1980s when we were way too young to know any different. I was a huge fan of stunts and stuntmen–remember the Fall Guy TV show with Lee Majors? So this film blew my young mind! I seem to remember there was a ninja in it too, if my memory is correct. OTT stunts and ninja–two things I was hugely into at that time. Thank you so much for the reminder!❤️

    • It’s on YouTube, and I’m thrilled to find I’m not alone in being nostalgic for this mix of ski, car, stunt and all out action! And these are actual stunts too, none of your cgi! Fall Guy/Hardcastle and McCormick levels of sports car flight!

  4. This sounds great. After devouring the “Jack Reacher” series recently, I’m on the lookout for more fairytale vigilantism where the bad guys are bad enough to deserve everything the hero does to them.

    • It’s all about the individual vs the authoritarian, and fairytale vigilantism is exactly where this movie comes from. On YouTube if you can find 80 minutes of ironing to do…

  5. Glickenhaus was a name for action fans back in the day. The Exterminator – with Samantha Eggar (though not as the eponymous hero) – and McBain with Walken. Good to note he had at least one other critically-aware fan.

    • It has that look, I’ll give you that, but the Soldier does not need an assist; he’s a one-man show.

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