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“Soldiers of Fortune”: Onward, Christian Slater!

August 8, 2012

Aren’t actors supposed to gain gravitas as they grow older? Christian Slater emerged as a preternaturally mature teenager, holding his own opposite Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose and making like a high-school Jack Nicholson in the instant cult classic Heathers. He was soon anchoring major films like the Quentin Tarantino/Tony Scott masterpiece True Romance and stepping in for River Phoenix as the interviewer of vampires Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Like Anne Rice’s bloodsuckers, Slater apparently hasn’t aged over the last two decades, and maybe that’s why his star seems to have shrunk. More likely, it’s the result of too many bad choices—bad movies (Kuffs, Hard RainMindhunters, Windtalkers), bad TV series (he was My Own Worst Enemy on NBC’s spy show as well as his unmemorable ABC procedural The Forgotten and Fox’s sitcom Breaking In, which failed to break out) and bad behavior (drunk driving, assaults, trying to board a plane with a gun). You’d think those real-life crimes would make him seem like a bad-ass, but he’s dwarfed by genuine tough guys Sean Bean and Ving Rhames—not to mention diminuitive Lost boy/Hobbit Dominic Monaghan and two Six Feet Under survivors, Freddy Rodriguez and James Cromwell—in the ridiculous new action flick Soldiers of Fortune.

Think of it as The Filthy-Rich Half Dozen: Slater is wildly miscast as a special-ops vet who leads a team of six adventure-seeking gazillionaires on maneuvers in a war zone with the promise of giving them “the ultimate extreme vacation.” What could possibly go right? Unfortunately, the film—directed by one Maxim Koroshtyshevsky (hey, isn’t he on Dancing With the Stars?)—proves as misguided as the mission, losing its promisingly witty Occupy Wall Street-friendly premise in a hail of mindless automatic weapon-fire. Yet somehow, Soldiers was released in theaters as well as on VOD last weekend, grossing less than $25,000 on 50 screens. Hardly a Fortune!

Still, it’s more than most of Slater’s recent films have earned. He’s churned out no fewer than three cheapie Westerns this year—El Gringo, Dawn Rider and the ripoff Bad Bloods: The Hatfields & the McCoys. He reteams with Rider‘s equally desperate Donald Sutherland in the thriller Assassin’s Bullet, which also received a token theatrical release over the weekend. Is it time to put a bullet in his big-screen career?

Slater gets “Freaky” with Breanne Racano

Maybe not quite yet. He’s costars with Sylvester Stallone and Sarah Shahi in Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head—which I predicted would be one of 2012’s most exciting new movies, before it was bumped to 2013. (Of course, my other choices included Gangster Squad—also bumped to ’13, due to a movie-theater massacre that needs to be reshot after the Aurora tragedy—Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter , The Dictator, Rock of Ages and The Pirates: Band of Misfits, so what do I know?). But my real hope is that his forthcoming role as an ex-’60s radical-turned-Hollywood demolition expert in Freaky Deaky—an adaptation of a novel by Elmore Leonard, whose writing surely influenced True Romance—will mark his Travolta-in-Pulp-Fiction-style comeback. If not, he may always be known as one of Hollywood’s soldiers of misfortune.

What’s your favorite Christian Slater flick? Any fans of Broken Arrow, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Pump Up the Volume or The Legend of Billie Jean out there?

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