Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker, Tiny Lister, Leon Rippy, Ralf Moeller, Simon Rhee, and Jerry Orbach
"The Future Has A Bad Attitude"
Back in ‘Nam, soldier Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) met and became mortal enemies with the sinister fellow soldier Andrew Scott (Lundgren). Luc objected to Scott’s killing of civilians, and in the ensuing brouhaha, they end up killing each other. Or so we think. In 1992, they, along with other former soldiers have been turned by the government into “Universal Soldiers”, or “Unisols” for short. They are part man, but part machine as well, and have been programmed to follow orders emotionlessly. But slowly both Luc and Andrew start to regain more and more of their humanity. Luc escapes the compound with reporter Veronica Roberts (Walker) - but Andrew is not happy about that. So now Luc and Veronica are on the run, with Andrew chasing them everywhere they go and causing a lot of mayhem along the way. Old grudges die hard as the final fight proves. What will happen?
Universal Soldier is a classic from the golden age of action in America. This was a time from the late 80’s to early 90’s when movies like this went to the theater and had decent budgets behind them. And this in particular was such a success that is spawned four (soon to be five as of this writing) sequels. But the high quality of this production goes a long way and is nice to see, especially in light of the brutal violence and constant, messy head shots which are usually reserved for lower-budget outings.
But, beyond the violence, there are some interesting messages at work. One is that humanity will always remain in us and is stronger than any outside force. Despite all that has happened to them, Luc is still good and Andrew is still evil. The movie also tries to make modern-day parallels to their ‘Nam experiences. Funnily enough, there’s a (probably inadvertent) pro-steroid message, as characters get stronger and win fights after they inject a chemical into themselves.
Besides Van Damme and Lundgren together at last, we shouldn’t forget Ralf Moeller is on hand as well. That’s right, Brakus himself plays a Unisol. Now that’s an amazing power-trio if there ever was one. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister and Simon Rhee also play Unisols. Of course, the whole program was developed by Lennie - i.e. Jerry Orbach - who really doesn’t get a lot of screen time. Ally Walker as the classic know-nothing reporter who serves as some kind of audience identification is okay, not great. But Dolph puts in a rare animated performance and seems to relish being the super-evil baddie here.
While the movie follows a very definite formula, there’s also plenty of humor so the proceedings don’t get too dour. Part of that, presumably, is the surprising amount of un-asked-for, unneeded Van Damme nudity. But the Unisols are kept in cold storage like so many hot dogs, and their eyepiece resembles an evil monocle, adding to their scary appearance. It’s also amusing to see Belgians and Swedes fighting in the Vietnam War...but come to think of it, this movie can really be summed up in three words: Necklace Of Ears.
Just get some action stars and a solid budget and entertainment will ensue. If only Hollywood kept on this path, but sadly they didn’t. If you haven’t yet seen it (or haven’t seen it in a long while), see Universal Soldier.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty