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!