Soldier of Fortune (1990)

soldier-of-fortune-vhs-coverWar Bus Commando is obviously the most famous Johnny Hondo adventure, mainly because it features Johnny Hondo. Soldier Of Fortune is the less famous Johnny Hondo entry in the series though it contains many of the same elements we loved from War Bus Commando: rocky Balkan locations substituting for Afghanistan, stuff blowing up, a funny-looking star, and evil Russians. Unfortunately, it seems destined to never receive the recognition as a great Johnny Hondo movie just because it features a guy named Vincent Miles instead of Johnny Hondo!

But wait, how can it be Johnny Hondo-inspired third world mayhem if some guy named Vincent Miles is running around gunning down Russkies, hanging off of helicopters and battling the entire Soviet military with just a dirt bike? Well, putting aside the fact that only Johnny Hondo would be capable of doing all that, it’s because Vincent Miles is really Johnny Hondo!

We know this because the rogue Russian special services guy says so, but unfortunately Vincent/Johnny has no memory of this! Why? Because the Russian shot him in the head in a flashback and Johnny caught him a dose of the amnesia! What? You didn’t know you could get amnesia from taking a bullet in the brain? Maybe you were shot in the head, too and just forgot!

When you get a look at the 1987 model of Johnny Hondo, you may also feel like you just got shot in the face because original Hondo Mark Gregory is nowhere to be seen!

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Mark brought a distinctly flamboyant look to the role with his gorgeous lips and snappy fashion sense (white turtleneck with tan coat), but Solider of Fortune‘s Johnny Hondo (Daniel Greene) is exactly the opposite, calling to mind a guy from Jersey with his meaty dullard look and sizable hair.

Still, Daniel is no forgettable George Lazenby. He’s got nearly as much time in Italian films as Mark does with roles in Hammerhead, American Rickshaw, and The Opponent to name just a few.

More importantly than that though is his ability to stand around firing an Uzi at Russians. He also has to almost display an emotion toward the end of the movie when his ex-girlfriend/ESP-powered goddess dies in a cave.

We know how important she was to him because all he could remember about his Johnny Hondo life were two snippets from his last Afghanistan mission several years ago. One was getting shot in the head and the other was her doing some sort of idiotic native dance for him and some tribesmen. And as anyone who has ever watched an Italian movie with a native dance scene knows, you can never forget it no matter how hard you try.

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Hondo’s mission this time around isn’t as gaudily dumb as piloting a school bus loaded with gold through a war zone, but it does turn out to be merely the set up for something even more pleasingly outlandish.

A prototype of a new MIG fighter has crashed and Hondo has to escort a professor to the crash site to get a look at it before the Russians find it and recover it themselves. As with most of us bad ass types, Hondo instantly hates the professor and the professor’s penchant for listening to music on his Walkman. This may explain why Hondo’s rescue of the professor from a cage suspended high above the ground involved merely cutting the rope and letting it roll down a mountain.

Hondo and the professor battle Russians off and on, getting captured here and there, escape, and mount a raid on a mountain villa before finally entering the mysterious caves with their Mario Bava-inspired lighting. Up until this point the viewer can be forgiven if he couldn’t tell if this was actually a different movie from something like War Bus Commando or Delta Force Commando II since it appeared to be the same locations getting blown up. Once in the caves though, director Pierluigi Ciriaci totally abandons the low budget Rambo stuff for some very welcome low budget Indiana Jones stuff!

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Deep inside the magic caves, Hondo finds his ex-girlfriend hanging out with the Ulysses 2000! The U2K is a sphere located inside a bowling ball that has all human knowledge programmed into it! If it were to fall into the wrong hands, a person could rule the whole freaking world with it! The fact that it was created to be sent into outer space where a superior extraterrestrial intelligence could make use of it seems to almost justify the Russian’s use of a its killer satellite to shoot the whole business down!

Hondo’s gal pal has developed the ability to communicate with it and Hondo finally figures out that this is what his previous mission involved. It all happened when Hondo was working for the Department of Science and Archeology! I knew that bastard was DSA all along!

You’ll barely have time to laugh at Hondo’s improbable past occupation because his super-powered chick friend unleashes the power of U2K and burns a couple of Russians alive!

One blown up cave and dead girlfriend later, Hondo is hitching a ride back to civilization while the U2K bowling ball rolls cheekily around on a hill overlooking Hondo’s getaway camper! And not that this movie needs it, but it easily burnishes its status as must-see Italian train wreck with the appearance of Bo Svenson as Hondo’s eye patch wearing commanding officer whose code name is Donald Duck.

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