Toy Soldiers (1991 film)

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Toy Soldiers
Toy Soldiers.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDaniel Petrie Jr.
Produced byMario Kassar
Mark Burg
Chris Zarpas
Written byDavid Koepp
Daniel Petrie Jr.
Based onToy Soldiers
by William P Kennedy
Music byRobert Folk
CinematographyThomas Burstyn
Edited byMichael Kahn
Island World
Distributed byTriStar Pictures (US and UK)
Warner Bros. (International)
Release date
  • April 26, 1991 (1991-04-26)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$15,073,942 (US)[1]

Toy Soldiers is a 1991 American action drama thriller film directed by Daniel Petrie Jr., with a screenplay by Petrie and David Koepp. It stars Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Louis Gossett Jr., Andrew Divoff, Mason Adams and Denholm Elliott.

The plot revolves around an all-male boarding school overtaken by terrorists. While the authorities remain helpless, a group of rebellious and mischievous students decide to put their resourcefulness to good use.[2]


In Barranquilla, Colombia, terrorist Luis Cali has taken over the Palace of Justice with a ruthless team of mercenaries. He demands the release of his drug kingpin father, Enrique Cali, only to be told that his father has already been delivered to the United States for trial. They escape by helicopter, and with the weapons and logistics assistance of Luis's second-in-command, an American named Jack Thorpe, they enter the U.S. through Mexico.

In the United States, the Regis High School is a prep school for teenage boys with wealthy and influential parents, half of whom have been expelled from other schools. A group of pranksters led by Billy Tepper that includes Billy’s best friend Joey Trotta, Hank Giles, Ricardo Montoya, Jonathan Bradberry, and Phil Donoghue is carefully watched over by their teachers and the stern but well-meaning Dean Parker.

Phil's father is the Federal Judge presiding over Enrique Cali's trial, so the entire family is taken to a safe location as a precaution. Unaware of this, Luis Cali invades the school to capture Donoghue, killing the Campus Police and a faculty member who interferes. Furthermore, they rig the campus with heavy firearms and remote-detonated explosives. With Phil nowhere to be found and the sons of numerous influential individuals in his grasp, Luis takes the entire school hostage.

Underestimating the threat, the local Sheriff attempts to intervene but is repelled by fire from a .50 caliber M2 machine gun. The State Police, FBI and US Army are called in, keeping their distance to avoid provoking the terrorists. Luis releases the school faculty except for the cooks and the headmaster, Robert Gould, but institutes hourly headcounts to keep track of the boys.

The students, under Billy's leadership, use their expertise in skirting authority to collect tactical information about the occupying forces, which Billy covertly brings to the authorities on the outside. They won't allow Billy to return, but with Parker's encouragement, he escapes and narrowly rejoins the students in time to be counted, preventing the killing of Gould and four students in response.

Joey's father, New York City mob boss Albert Trotta, arranges through Luis' father for the boy to be released. Joey, contemptuous of his father, refuses to go. He steals a submachine gun and opens fire on another terrorist, but he is killed in the exchange. Luis tries to impress upon Parker, who comes to retrieve the body, that it was an accident, but Albert takes revenge by having Enrique Cali killed in prison.

Knowing they must act before Luis can learn of his father's death, the authorities undertake a rescue mission. FBI Hostage Rescue Team personnel (trailed by Parker), supported by the Army, covertly infiltrate the school and begin taking out terrorists. Meanwhile, Billy and his friends sabotage the detonator for the explosives, incapacitate several more terrorists with surprise attacks, and lead the students and Gould to a secret basement chamber. Overwhelmed by the assault, in which most of the terrorists are killed, Luis takes Billy at gunpoint and holds him in Gould's office. Parker and the commandos converge and kill Luis, with Parker being wounded in the process. The few remaining terrorists are subdued and the students are freed.



The film was based on the novel of the same by William P. Kennedy.

The first screenplay was written by David Koepp who wrote it for director John Schlesinger. The school was a European boarding school and the villains were Palestinian terrorists. Schlesinger dropped out of the project and the script was rewritten to be set in the USA with different villains.[3]

The main antagonist of the film was portrayed by Andrew Divoff, who has mentioned that his role as Luis Cali was his favourite role as a bad guy.[citation needed] The film was distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and TriStar Pictures in the US and Warner Bros. Pictures internationally.

There is a real private school named Regis High School, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, although this school is a Jesuit school unlike the fictional school in the film which is not. The location of the fictional Regis School in the film is not geographically defined. The school's exterior scenes were filmed at The Miller School of Albemarle in Charlottesville, Virginia. Other exterior scenes were filmed in San Antonio, Texas, Richmond, Virginia and Waynesboro, Virginia.[citation needed]


Box office[edit]

The film debuted at No. 3 on its opening weekend in the United States[4] and grossed $15,073,942 nationwide during its run.[5]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 36% based on reviews from 14 critics.[6] On Metacritic it has a score of 46% based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.[8]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1 out of 4, stating that "Since the plot of the movie is utterly predictable, we hope at least for some cleverness in the gimmicks. Here the movie is so disappointing that I wonder if the screenwriters were really trying."[9][10] Critic Clint Morris was more favorable stating "The performances are rock solid".[citation needed]


For their performance in Toy Soldiers, Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, T.E. Russell and George Perez were all nominated for an Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture by the Thirteenth Annual Youth in Film Awards 1990-1991. They lost narrowly to Donovan McCrary, Desi Arnez Hines II and Baha Jackson for their performance in Boyz n the Hood[11]


  1. ^ "Toy Soldiers (1991) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  2. ^ New York Times
  3. ^
  4. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-04-30). "Weekend Box Office : 'Dances,' 'Lambs' Lose Ground". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  5. ^ "Toy Soldiers (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  6. ^ "Toy Soldiers (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  7. ^ "Toy Soldiers". Metacritic. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  8. ^ "TOY SOLDIERS (1991) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Toy Soldiers movie review & film summary (1991)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  10. ^ Observer-Reporter – Google News Archive Search
  11. ^ "Young Artist Awards: Past Nominations". Young Artist

External links[edit]