Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)

On Sunday, I went to the monthly flea market at the community college near where I live and scored some pretty great DVDs.  This…was not one of them.  Jean-Claude van Damme returns as Luc Deveraux in this sequel to the considerably better first one.  Sure, the first one was good mainly because Dolph Lundgren was there and pulled out all the stops but still!

Set seven years after the original, we find Luc a normal guy now (albeit with the kickboxing skills you generally expect from the star) with a daughter he loves (who exists only to be menaced) and a consulting job on the new version of then Universal Soldier program.  Yes, after a fiasco in which tons of people were killed and lots of stuff blew up real good, the DOD has still kept the project running.

The new soldiers are stronger and faster and are controlled by a supercomputer known as S.E.T.H. (voiced by Michael Jai White).  As tends to happen in this sort of movie, Seth goes haywire and Luc has to fight back against the renegade super soldiers, primarily Romeo (former wrestler Bill Goldberg) who serves as our “berserk henchman who is enthusiastically desperate to waste our hero”.  Generally I love this sort of character; I also love it when he’s not just a walking joke machine with muscles.  Goldberg comes off as a muscle-bound Wile E. Coyote which means that it is possible to get more cartoonish than pro wrestling!

Seth eventually gets a human body (also White) to transfer his brain into thanks to a really, really annoying cyberpunk named Squid who apparently used to be on the project but was kicked out.  Probably because he insisted on naming himself Squid and insisted on dying his hair pink.  He also may be the single laziest super genius I’ve ever seen in my life.  We only see him in what looks like a dorm room and at one point he actually rides a motorized scooter a few inches just to get closer to the door when he has company.

Luc is paired up with an even more annoying character in the form of our female lead, reporter Erin Young (Heidi Schanz).  If you have ever seen Invasion U.S.A. (which I recapped on The Agony Booth a few years ago), you remember Angry Reporter Lady.  Well, we get more or less the same character here only she actually reveals a soft side...sort of.  She’s really in the plot just so van Damme has someone to talk to, though I would have kept his pretty assistant (Kiana Tom) on to fill those duties instead.

The main reason you go to see a movie like this (or in my case shell out five bucks at a flea market) is also the film’s biggest flaw.  The action is almost laughably repetitious with the Army constantly being ambushed, glass being shattered and van Damme going through the motions.  Even the final fight with Luc and Seth has a sort of ordinary feel to it.  It’s really not the fault of either actor, they just seem have found the one stunt guy who doesn’t shoot good action scenes in Mic Rodgers.  This was his debut movie as a director and I can safely say that as a director, he makes a great stuntman.

In fact, the entire movie has a very arbitrary, cheap feel to it, almost every inch of it seems to be van Damme pleading for us to enjoy the movie and not consign him to DTV hell.  Given this was his last huge theatrical release until JCVD got some stateside theater time, I think you can guess how well this film did.

In the end, this is a remarkably dull sequel, especially given how silly it is and even with a gratuitous scene in a strip club..  It comes off like something Cannon Films would have released towards the end of their run, and that my friends, is not a good thing.  Skip this one and just grab the recent Universal Soldier: Regeneration.  Trust me, it rocks.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! This looks pretty bad, but will probably watch it anyway for Van Damme and Jai White.


About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.