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Film / Toy Soldiers

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Toy Soldiers is a film released in 1991, starring Louis Gossett Jr., Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, and Keith Coogan.

The Regis School has earned the nickname of "The Reject School" as many of its students have been expelled from other boarding schools. When Luis Cali (perpetual villain Andrew Divoff), son of a powerful Colombian drug lord, takes over the school in an attempt to bargain for his father's release, The Rejects decide they won't settle with being hostages and begin hatching plans of sabotage and escape.

Not to be confused with Small Soldiers.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The boys take every piece of the Headmaster's office furniture and lays it out as it was perfectly on the school quad. The Headmaster and the Dean try desperately not to laugh while in front of all the students. The Headmaster then says quietly he would rather like to leave all the furniture there and work outside in the sunshine.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used by Billy Tepen (Sean Astin) to get from a bathroom to an office.
  • Anti-Air: One of the terrorists grabs a rocket launcher to try to shoot down an incoming special forces Blackhawk helicopter, but ends up getting mowed down by an Apache gunship before he can use it.
  • Badass Bookworm: Joey dutifully does his own homework as well as Billy's and is a skilled sketch artist, but he's also quick to advocate fighting back against the terrorists (albeit in a Leeroy Jenkins way) and eventually overpowers one hostage-taker and takes his gun away.
  • Badass Bystander: One student outside of Billy's gang sprints out of the cafeteria past the cartel gunmen during the initial hostage taking and tries to get to a phone to call in what's happening before being caught.
  • Badass Teacher: Dean Parker definitely earns his stripes at the climax when the assault team he was leading into the school gets incapacitated by a booby trap and he picks up a gun and continues on his own.
    • During the initial hostage taking, the chemistry teacher tries to manhandle a mercenary who looks about to shoot a student, which gets him killed.
  • Big Bad: Luis Cali.
  • The Cartel: Cali and his men, naturally.
  • Cassandra Truth: Cali's claim that Joey got shot due to his own actions of fighting back even though he really was going to be released is largely true, but comes across as false to Joey's father, who has Cali's father killed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The remote controlled airplane, with the control chip.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Joey's dad is repeatedly mentioned to be a member of The Mafia, a source of great shame to Joey. Joey is killed and Cali's father is murdered in prison several scenes later by order of Joey's dad, instigating the climactic raid.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Averted in a somewhat conspicuous way, such that Roger Ebert noted it in his review. Billy and his friends in an early scene elaborately hack the phone system to call to numbers they weren't supposed to. Considering the entire movie is a hostage situation with normal (and vital) phone communication cut off, this appeared to be a gun that would be returned to, yet it is never referenced again.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The remote controlled airplane's control chip evidently shares a common feature with that of the detonator for the explosives. That said, it was established earlier in the film that the chips were standardized.
    • Truth in Television, radio control components are standardized. This makes it a bit risky to use for a bomb, though they are freely available, so easily accessible to terrorists. They might not even be aware they are used in toys.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: When Cali takes Billy hostage and holds him in Headmaster Gould's office while the Special Forces tries to enter before he can detonate the bomb, Dean Parker jumps through the window to kill Cali but Cali shoots him first, wounding him. With Cali distracted, the Special Forces enters the office and one of them shoots Cali in the back of his head, killing him.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The cartel does this at the school, just before busting in to announce their takeover.
  • Delinquents: The dean asks Billy if he's going for a record in expulsions. He sells disguised booze to his classmates and is the ringleader in any pranks pulled by the students. His record makes authorities dealing with the siege reluctant to go with his proposed plan, until the Dean convinces them otherwise.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard in a boarding school.
  • Disposable Woman: The unfortunate courtroom hostage in the opening. She and others are forced to stand on the window sill. One rifle butt later...
  • The Door Slams You: During the climax, Luis Cali, the Big Bad, rushes into the kitchen looking for the students, who have taken refuge in the hidden cellar beneath the kitchen. Billy, holding a submachine gun, hides behind the kitchen's swinging door, and for a moment it looks like it's worked. And then Cali abruptly grabs the door with one hand and slams it into Billy, crushing him against the wall and dazing him long enough for Cali to disarm him and take him prisoner.
  • The Dragon: Jack Thorpe is Cali's main advisor and enfrocer.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The operation to eliminate the terrorists and retake the school is conducted by special forces operatives.
  • Fast-Roping: Several of the aforementioned special forces teams use this method to gain rapid access to the school grounds.
  • Foreshadowing: When Joey is talking about taking a machine gun from one of the bad guys.
  • The Ghost: All of the powerful fathers of the main characters besides Joey's father are mentioned but unseen (several parents are seen in a meeting with the authorities, who are trying to prevent them from panicking, but none of them are identified as being the parents of previously established characters).
  • Guile Hero: Billy Tepper mostly relies on his wits.
  • Gunship Rescue: The climactic raid on the school has multiple soldiers flying in with Blackhawks and Apache chopper support.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Joey is killed, Billy sinks in deep depression, almost missing their chance that they planned so hard for.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: A deliberately invoked example. Ricardo claims not to speak Spanish to Cali, who tells one of his men in spanish to shoot Ricardo in the leg, with his panicked reaction showing that he did understand that.
  • Kick the Dog: When Billy is late to the head count Cali beats him with a metal pointer.
  • Language Fluency Denial: The villains are Hiding Behind the Language Barrier by speaking Spanish. They ask one of the students, Ricardo, if he speaks Spanish. Ricardo denies being able to speak the language. When the villain says in Spanish to shoot him anyway Ricardo yells "No, wait!" revealing himself.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Averted. Joey is in no way prepared to control the assault rifle's recoil, and it drives his weapon straight up in the air almost immediately.
  • The Mafia: Joey's father is a Don in the Mafia, and Joey is ashamed of it and takes exception when his friends bring it up. When Joey is killed, his dad has Cali's dad murdered in prison in retaliation.
  • Men of Sherwood: Barely any of the commandos who end the hostage situation at the boarding school and rescue the kids are named or get characterization, but they are responsible for every fatality the villains suffer, including the Big Bad, and only lose a few of their own people to one grenade. Throughout this, the main characters (the hostages) settle for overpowering a few guards, disarming a booby trap, and taking cover where they can't be held hostage.
  • No Kill like Overkill: It's not enough for the terrorists to shoot up a cop car with a fifty-cal heavy machine gun, they have to blow it up with an anti-tank rocket launcher to top it off! Later an AH-64 Apache is twice seen shooting baddies with its 30mm cannon, a weapon meant to pierce light armor. The Apache's appearance is a bit gratuitous, since it isn't shown doing anything one of the Blackhawks couldn't have done, but see Rule of Cool.
  • Numbers Station: The coded transmissions of The Cartel utilize this method.
  • Papa Wolf: Joey's father takes the murder of his son hard and lashes out by ordering his guys in prison to kill the man Cali wants released.
  • Pet the Dog: Cali is a cold, ruthless man, but after the American government meets several of his demands (although not all of them) while he continues to hold out for more, he acknowledges this act of good faith and extends the deadline he made for executing hostages to give them more time.
  • Properly Paranoid: The authorities moving the son of the judge trying Cali's father out of the school and into protective custody while keeping his new location secret is a far-sighted and wise precaution. Unfortunately, it isn't enough to keep Cali from holding everyone else at the school hostage once he finds Phil gone.
  • Race Against the Clock: After delivering information to the troops outside, Billy has to get back to the school in time to make the next headcount, or five of his classmates will be executed.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Dean Parker and the headmaster impose discipline where it's necessary but don't go for the maximum punishment and want to help their students rather than push them away. They also work hard to keep them calm and safe during the hostage standoff.
    • General Kramer plans a successful rescue operation, cares about saving the hostages, doesn't overestimate his abilities, and isn't too proud to accept input from the information Billy smuggles out of the school.
    • Deputy Director Brown is respectful to Kramer, Parker, and the local cops, strives to avoid unnecessary bloodshed through negotiation as well as planning the commando raid, and only argues against relying on Billy for the understandable reason that Billy is an inexperienced kid with known authority issues.
  • Recurring Extra: A student named Robert Anderson has a few notable scenes, such as trying to call for help during the raid on the school and being identified as one of the students with a particularly rich father, but never speaks up or mingles with the main gang of kids.
  • Rule of Cool: There was no tactical benefit to using an AH-64 Apache instead of another UH-60 Blackhawk, but damn if it isn't satisfying to see the fear of god in the eyes of the terrorists.
  • Spanner in the Works: The climactic raid becomes much more important to pull off because Joey Trotta's father (who has connections in prison) orders the death of Luis Cali's father (who is also in prison) as he's being released and the authorities really don't want to know what will Cali do when he discovers that his plan to force the authorities to release his father was All for Nothing.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Two terrorists don't see or hear an attack helicopter that is only a few feet away. They see it and hear it only when it rises to the same height as they are.
    • Somewhat justified, since there were 2 other helicopters closing in on the school.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Cali is killed by a random soldier instead of Billy, one of his friends, or the nearby Dean Parker in the climax. During military raids to end hostage situations, the trained professionals are far more likely to kill the hostage-takers than the hostages are, no matter how proactive they've been during their captivity and how much It's Personal anger the hostages may have.
    • Luis Cali attempts to release Joey because he respects Joey's father Albert, a mob boss. Joey despises his father and is appalled by being released while his friends remain captive, so he overcomes his guard and takes his machine gun. Joey attempts to use the gun on one of Cali's goons, but immediately loses control of the machine gun due to the kick and is shot dead. Joey's father is (understandably) outraged his kid was shot down and doesn't believe it could be an accident and orders the assassination of Luis's father in revenge. Luis's entire goal was to free his father, so the Feds believe he could start killing the kids or even detonate his bombs so the Feds are forced to attempt the risky assault on the school.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The climactic raid on the school is forced upon the protagonists because Joey Trotta's father, in a moment of unthinking Papa Wolf rage, orders the death of Cali's father in revenge for Joey's and now the police has to prevent Cali from killing all of the children in a retaliation of his own.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Cali starts having this towards the climax when the special forces soldiers begin their raid on the school and shoot some of the Mooks and after Billy and his friends rescue the hostages. This culminates in him angrily taking Billy hostage at gunpoint to the headmaster's office and when his attempt to detonate the bomb fails (due to the boys swapping the control chip in the remote controlled plane), the look of panic on his face becomes palpable.
  • Villianous Valor: Two pairs of Mooks stand their ground and keep firing away at against dozens of special forces soldiers for some time in the climax. The first pair is killed at the entrance to the administration building, while it's unclear whether the second pair were killed or eventually surrendered to the troops who barge in through the outer office the goons were last seen defending.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Cali is willing to execute some of the younger kids to punish escapes if necessary and when Joey Trotta (Wil Wheaton) tries to start a rebellion among the students, the Colombians shoot him down without hesitation. Cali does try to explain that, had the boy not grabbed a submachine gun from one of the guards and threatened his people with it, Cali probably would have been content to just beat up on him some as punishment instead of shooting him. Cali doesn't help his case by claiming it was an accident.