Rated R - Running time: 1:40 - Released 10/23/98

Wow. What a terrible movie. I have abolutely no clue what would persuade someone to take part in such a lame, insipid testosterone-fest as this, especially an established actor like Kurt Russell. Oh, of course — (head slap here) — it's the $20 million. He and Goldie must want a new house. This film features a triple threat: bad writing (by David Webb Peoples), bad directing (by Paul Anderson), and bad acting (or no acting) by Russell et al. And it doesn't even sport the cool effects associated with such recent techno-flops as Starship Troopers, Armageddon, and Lost In Space.

Peoples's screenplay is half Gattaca, with its vision of the future as devoid of character, and half The Postman, with a society of pathetic dolts who can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Luckily, Russell's character, Sergeant Todd, fits right in: He isn't equipped to do anything but fight. In fact, I didn't think he could even speak until he finally uttered his first (of very few) words, over one half hour into the film. And then I wished he hadn't.

Todd is a trained soldier who has been rendered obsolete by a new breed of warrior — genetically engineered to be faster, stronger, and more efficient (less space wasted on gray matter) than Todd and his gang. A specimen of this new order is Caine (Jason Scott Lee), who is put to the test against Todd and two other of his old-school bully boys. Todd and his friends are beaten to a pulp, thought to be dead, and thrown out with the trash on a planet used solely for a waste receptacle. When he wakes up, Todd has already missed the bus back home, so he's got to make his way among the peaceful folk that live on Planet Dump.

Though a community of Oscar the Grouches would not be at all out of place among the ridiculous pretexts ever present in this script, the people of this literal wasteland aren't just living there because they happen to like trash. As Todd learns from his hosts, Sandra (Connie Nielsen) and her husband Mace (Sean Pertwee), they too were abandoned and forgotten, and have long since given up trying to flag down the dump ships. So they have fashioned a whole town, complete with a meeting hall, apartments, and a bar, all made out of garbage (mostly airplane parts).

Todd gets kicked out of town for looking at Sandra's boobs, but then he's re-accepted when they learn he has taught a little kid how to kill a snake. (Yay — another anti-snake message from Hollywood.) And his reintroduction into Garbageville society is not a minute too soon, because nasty Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs), who developed Caine and his master race, plans to invade the planet, using Caine as the leader of the hostile takeover. So now wordless Todd must single-handedly do battle with his wordless old nemesis and 17 other well-armed, wordless baddies.

Such an astoundingly bad film is no real surprise from director Anderson, whose short resume includes such classics as Event Horizon (1997) and Mortal Kombat (1995). And Russell, I guess, just needed the dough. What really surprises me is that writer Peoples, who has turned out such masterful screenplays as 12 Monkeys (1995), Unforgiven (1992), and Bladerunner (1982), would sink to such depths. Kurt Russell's career has had its ups and downs ever since he starred as Dexter Riley in Disney's The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1970). But take it from me, folks: Dexter's been unplugged. *

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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