Art Figures: Soldier Of Fortune - Review

Now, I love a good action film, and honestly who doesn't?  But nothing quite hits the spot like the action films reminiscent of the late eighties and nineties, with names such as Stallone, Rourke, Schwarzenegger and Willis to name but a few.  These films of my teenage years are often imitated but can never be duplicated; and so when 'The Expendables' hit the screens in 2010, like many I was excited.  The film was silly, the lines were cheesy and the plot was almost undetectable but, it had all of the action and a clever concept also to squeeze those huge Hollywood legends (with their huge Hollywood egos!) into one large dose of adrenalin pumping, shoot-em up action.

DSCF9413Well, they must have done something right and there sure must be a fan-base out there because two years later a sequel emerged with a third one announced fairly recently; when Arnold announced (predictably) that he'd be back, he wasn't lying!

Despite the apparent success, there has been a real lacking in figures from this series of motion pictures, with Barney Ross being the only character to materialise in 12" format, thanks to a Hot Toys release MMS 138.  There have been 'rumours' that they may continue the figure line-up, but with so many other projects and unfinished series, it was doubtful that this would ever be a reality.

Then, in October of 2012 Art Figures announced the release of a figure that would have bought joy to all those who bit the bullet and purchased the Barney Ross figure; his brother in arms, 'Lee Christmas' portrayed by Jason Statham in the film.  Finally, another one to add to the collection and at the delight of many, not at Hot Toys prices either!

One has to remember that as with many of Art Figures releases, and other manufacturers such as DAM for example, these figures are not produced under licence and carry no official affiliation with the film that they represent.  To that end, this figure is aptly named 'Soldiers Of Fortune' (not to be confused with the 2012 movie flop staring Christian Slater and Sean Bean).  It matters not what the name is, as this figure and the film that the character originates from is instantly recognisable, helped also by the clever art work on the box inspired from the movie's logo.

For me, although not a massive fan of the film franchise, certainly not enough to spend a fortune on associated action figures, this particular release does appeal on a wider level thanks to the military load-out, and certainly does not look out of place in my display cabinet.  In fact, as we speak it has pride of place on the 'movie icons' shelf, along with the T-1000, T-800, Sarah Connor and Robocop... soon to be joined by The Dark Knight and Black Widow!

So let's have a further look at the figure, and what you get for your money:

This release comprises the following items:

Authentic Likeness of Jason Statham Head Sculpt
Body (with improved shoulder joint)
Black T Shirt
Black Combat Suit W/Knee Pad & Elbow Pad
EOD Vest
Combat Belt
Belt Mounted Ammo Pouch
White Underpants (note: these were not included in my set for some reason)
Black Socks
Noveske Diplomat Rifle with magazine X 3
M9 Pistol with magazine X 2
M67 Fragmentation Grenade X 2
Eotech Red Dot Sight
KAC Foldable Sight
Tac2 Laser Sight
Throwing Knife X 6
GSG-9 Boots
Cross-Draw Holster

Now, whilst this could be considered 'light' on equipment by comparison to some figures, you need to also compare the price, around £89.99 in the UK or about $114.99 in the US which compared to some Hot Toys releases comprising of a similar amount of equipment, it's easily £50 less... but does that mean a figure of a poorer quality?  In my opinion no, absolutely not and certainly not in-terms of the 'loose' items.

DSCF9354Starting with the box, this like some of Art Figures previous releases (notably 'City Police' which we reviewed a few months ago) is a familiar 'shoe box' type format, lined with foam to protect the figure and house all of the relevant accessories.  As I covered in the 'City Police' review, Art Figures boxes are very appealing and certainly do not portray the image of a budget figure, more like a premium format collectable.  The art work, as usual, does not disappoint and the 'inspiration' (a loose term, it's an outright copy!) of the movie logo on the box makes the figure instantly recognisable on the shelf even if it does not bear the name of the film.

Upon opening the magnetic clasps and lifting the lid, and after removing the foam liner, you are presented with the figure which is mainly dressed with only some minor assembly required.  That is, the vest to be fitted, cross-draw holster to be mounted, thigh holsters for the throwing knives to and the ammo pouch to be placed on the belt and the positioning of all the related weaponry.  The fiddliest part of the whole process is the fixture of the cross-draw holster on the molle vest, and I recommend tweezers as an absolute necessity.

Removing the figure from the box you can tell straight away that it is sturdy, and it stands up easily without support.  The body type used is the same one as their previous releases such as 'City Police', 'Raging Police' and 'Delta Force' figures with the exception that Art Figures addressed an apparent quality control issue in relation to the shoulder joint and made subsequent modifications to ensure greater strength in that area (more detail on that can be found here).

even a merc needs his socks!The body dimensions are roughly that of a cross between a BBI 3.5 body and a Neo 3, nicely sculpted muscle definition that fills out a uniform nicely, but not too large that nothing fits.  I've used a loose Art Figures body on a separate bash before and if I could get them loose by the cart-load, I would.  The wrist pins are HT compatible and come with bendy hands attached by default; this is common across their entire range of figures.  The neck ball-post will accept a HT compatible neck plug also meaning plenty of scope for using these bodies for kit-bashing purposes.  Worth also noting that the feet are not removable, but does have a separate articulated toe section and interestingly instead of a ball joint they've opted for their own custom design which allows a pivot sideways as well as forwards and backwards.  This can be better seen in some of the images of the 'City Police' figure also found in our reviews section.

I do have however one minor criticism of the body and head sculpt combination, and the same was experienced on the 'City Police' figure (again the 'nude' photo will demonstrate this next point nicely) and that is the unfortunate lack of articulation in the neck region.  This is caused by the wide neck of the sculpt, which sticks out past the plug, catching on the shoulder blades or chest.  This can be resolved by a little modification with a dremel tool by removing some material from the upper torso around the neck allowing for greater movement.  Although it's not a critical flaw, it does slightly limit the posing options.

Whilst we're looking at the body, let's discuss the head-sculpt.  It is undeniably Jason Statham we're seeing when looking at this figure, and I feel very few could dispute that.  I have seen some comments appearing on other forums with the usual 'the head sculpt is off', but let us be clear on a few points; whoever does the sculpting work for Art Figures does an absolutely fantastic job and in my opinion the quality is beyond that of say Head Play as a comparison, yet not quite Hot Toys quality, especially in terms of the paint application; but remember, it is also not Hot Toys prices!  I think that perhaps the fore-head is a little too high, and this certainly more noticeable once the beret is removed; with it in place, it looks VERY good indeed.

So now let us move onto the clothing and equipment that Mr Christmas has been supplied with.  The upper of our figure is protected by a black t-shirt, over which a long sleeved combat top with micro-zipper at the neck opening.  The quality of the stitching is very good and it features functional arm pockets with micro-velco closures and attachment points for patches.  I don't think that Lee Christmas was decorated with any patches in the movie, however I might produce something a little custom for this figure to place on each arm, well... why not?  The elbows have integral pads attached which I think on inspection are actually sewn into the fabric somehow as opposed to glued on which is nice as they flex well with arm movement and will not be prone to falling off like some Very Hot brand of clothing items.

DSCF9387The combat trousers also, are of the same high quality fabric with excellent stitching, Velcro fastenings and functional pockets; a whopping eight in total!  Again the knee pads appear to be sewn into the fabric of the trouser leg and are nicely weathered in appearance.  Overall I noticed that in some of the release photos from Art Figures, the clothing did appear to be slightly weathered, but no so much in the final production run, this leaves it up to you as to whether you wish to dirty him up a bit, or leave him nice and clean as delivered.  Another minor criticism and this really is not Art Figures fault but that of a general dislike of 'micro-Velcro'.  It doesn't in my experience adhere to itself very well, so I found that the arm and ankle cuffs tended to work themselves free, to combat this, a tiny drop of superglue kept them firmly in place.  Again, that is a minor annoyance mainly on my part, not something which is a manufacturing flaw!

The boots, which are a faithful replica of Adidas' GSG-9, the footwear of choice for SWAT teams around the world, including of course Germany's famous GSG-9 Special Forces unit.  These boots are of the hybrid variety, that being soft plastic in conjunction with laces, and I'm quite a fan of them to be honest.  These ones are nicely weathered and the same type that was used on their 'Delta' figure.  I found the laces just a little too long so mine were re-tied and trimmed accordingly.

DSCF9400The vest, described as an 'EOD' vest is actually more like an Interceptor style.  Fairly plain and non-descript, our character here does not come adorned with pouches to line the molle straps.  He does however come with a small belt mounted dump-pouch worn on the rear (which comes foam filled), in which you can keep the spare weapon magazines.  The vest is of course decorated with the cross-draw holster, mounted on the front left hand side.  This is by far the most fiddly part of the assembly and as mentioned earlier, you will need some tweezers to pass the thin straps through the molle loops.  Also mounted on the vest (but not present in the film) are the two M67 fragmentation grenades, with the spoon pushed through the loops in a fashion that only Hollywood would dare.  Finally, at the rear you will find two of the lethal throwing knives that Lee Christmas is so proficient with, one accessible behind each shoulder.

Other notable parts of the uniform are the gloves, which fit nicely over the supplied bendy hands.  I've not often been a fan of the real gloves, preferring to opt for moulded gloves instead.  This is usually because tiny gloves are normally ill fitting and far too baggy around the palm and back of hand; not so however with these offerings from Art Figures.  They are made from an almost lycra material which stretches over the hands enough to aid in fitting, and then grips the fingers and palms nicely for a snug fit.  Finally, the trademark Beret that thankfully is produced from a textile material and not that awful flocked soft plastic which are sometimes found.  Make sure however that the Beret is fitted correctly on the head, otherwise poor Lee will end up looking more like Frank Spencer!

From here we progress onto looking at the weapons that have been provided with this figure, four in total; his rifle, pistol, grenades and the legendary throwing knives which make this particular character so unique.  A total of six knives are included with this figure, four of which are mounted in thigh holsters, two per side and the remaining two as mentioned earlier are located in the back of the vest behind the shoulders.  What struck me when I first started to examine this figure is that the knives themselves are actually made of metal with threaded grips on the handles!  A very, very nice touch indeed and add to the element of realism.  You can even go one step further and carefully sand the edges of the blades to wear away some of the black paint and expose the shiny metal beneath, a touch of added realism!

DSCF9399Two M67 fragmentation grenades are provided, which are nicely detailed with metal ring pulls and a removable fuse assembly.  As mentioned earlier on, although these are not seen in the film (certainly in the position shown on the box art), they are precariously located with the spoon handle pushed through the molle loops, something usually reserved for Hollywood depictions of our heroes – you'd never see this 'in the field'.

The pistol provided is unfortunately the only minor inaccuracy with this figure.  Lee Christmas uses a Beretta 92G Elite, which has a slightly squarer frame and integral rail mounting underneath, however we've been provided with a 92F, the same 92F used on the 'City Police' figure.  Please do not be mistaken, it is a very nice version of the 92F and certainly on par with Soldier Story version which most regard as the best one produced, but it is however the wrong pistol for this particular figure.  I can see this and the cross-draw holster being a popular loose item for kit-bashers though, as I do with a number of the items provided with this figure.

That leads us nicely to the last item, and boy did we save the best until last; the rifle.  A fairly unique piece in the 1/6th world, and not your average 'M4' clone, the Noveske Works 'Diplomat' rifle is an absolutely beautiful rifle.  I honestly cannot find fault with it and it certainly lends that finishing quality to this figure.  The weathered paint application is perfect, and the reproduction of this weapon is as faithful as it possibly could be.  With accurate Noveske trade markings, the VLTOR upper receiver and K3 flash suppressor; it is going to be one VERY popular loose item for the kit-bashing market.  This piece comes provided with flip-up front and rear sights, an Eotech red-dot, laser target designator and two magazines.  Other nice features include the hinged ejection port cover, moveable cocking handle, functional upper receiver release lever... AND the whole receiver is hinged and opens just like the real thing... brilliant!  A word of caution however when opening the lower and upper receiver parts, the gun at this point is at it's most delicate so care should be taken not to damage the hinge pin.

DSCF9406In summary, this is another excellent release from Art Figures who are really establishing themselves firmly within the 1/6th scale market.  Although they might not be churning out as many figures as DAM for example, the quality is really up there with the best of them and I personally cannot wait to see what they come up with next.  I have mentioned throughout this review a few small 'niggles', those being the micro-Velcro not adhering well, but it never does, and the minor inaccuracy of pistol choice.  In all other aspects I cannot fault this figure and standing alongside a Hot Toys Barney Ross, you would have a hard time distinguishing between the two in terms of quality, if anything I would wager that the Art Figures items such as the rifle, boots and uniform are of superior quality compared to that particular HT release.

As commented previously, the head sculpt isn't 100% perfect, but then I as often find in this hobby, it is very difficult to please all of the people all of the time.  To my eye, when the beret is in place, the head looks pretty spot on, and you would definitely have no mistake in recognising Jason Statham as intended.

In conclusion I wholeheartedly recommend the Art Figures: Soldier Of Fortune figure and would like to extend my thanks to them yet again for allowing me the opportunity to review this great piece.

Until next time...

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