28 September 1999 | BrianG
Outstanding little movie
"Death of a Soldier" is a first-rate little thriller, based on an actual incident that took place in Australia during WW II. Eddie Leonski, an American soldier stationed in Australia, goes partying in the local bars at night. Women are attracted to his boyish charm, rugged good looks and spectacular physique. What they don't know is that underneath that exterior is a brain-damaged serial killer. Years of heavy alcohol consumption, and horrible physical abuse at home, have driven Eddie to the point that when he gets drunk he turns into an uncontrollable killer. He first asks his victims to sing for him, and when they do, he strangles them ("I just want your voice, that's all . . ."). He is eventually turned in by one of his fellow soldiers who is aghast when he hears Eddie offhandedly remark, "I think I killed a couple of those women."
The movie doesn't end there, though. It shows how Eddie is used by all sides--the U.S. Army, the Australian government--to further their own agendas. The Army wants to hang him, the Australians don't want to offend the Army just at the time it needs help to fend off a possible Japanese invasion, and nobody particularly cares that Eddie is obviously insane and has no idea what he has done or what is going on around him. Reb Brown, best known as a star of low-grade action movies, is outstanding as the pathetic Eddie, never turning him into the caricature of the hulking, subhuman serial killer. He really makes you feel for Eddie. James Coburn is fine as always as the lawyer appointed to defend him, but it's Reb Brown's show, and he is up to it. It's a shame Brown never got a chance to do anything else as good as this, and it's also a shame that this film is as unknown as it is. It deserves a much wider audience than it's gotten.