Sunday, May 16, 2010

Universal Soldier - 3/5

How can this following equation work? Rowland Emmerich + Van Damme + Dolf Lundgren = Decent? The universe should come to a screeching halt and implode by this unnatural equation. Albert Einstein would even suffer an aneurysm by trying to figure out how this equation works! As you can tell Universal Soldier is better than it has any right to be with this director, cast, and a plot about genetically made soldiers.

I remember this film being a popular film when I was a kid. For one thing it brought together two of the most popular bad acting action stars into one film! We have Van Damme predictably playing the "good soldier" and Dolf, aka Ivan Drago, playing the "psychotic soldier". The film opens in the Vietnam War with Van Damme confronting his sergeant (played by Lundgren) who has lost his mind. They end up killing each other and then the film flashes to "present day", though it definitely looks like1992, where our two soldiers seem to be alive, part of a elite group of soldiers taking down some terrorists at Hoover dam (why Hoover dam? BECAUSE IT'S AN AWESOME LOOKING LOCATION WITH NO OTHER PURPOSE!). Here we are also introduced to reporter Ally Walker (or who I like to call "profiler"). She gets fired, follows the soldiers to their mega high tech mobile semi, takes some pictures, and escapes with Van Damme who is starting to recall memories from the Vietnam War. The military gets pissy, goes after them and predictably "Drago" also recalls memories, goes psychotic, and sets out for revenge.

The film, like expected, is full of great action sequences. Lots of bullets and even a great prison bus, semi chase sequence. Van Damme is also surprisingly good in the role as our "UniSol" as he rediscovers his humanity along the way. Lundgren is as bad of actor as ever but I can't help and get a little smile to crack across my face when he lights up the screen with his shell shock craziness. He's has a menacing prescience and his 6'5" height is a great contrast to Van Damme's much smaller 5'9" stature. The film has some slight humor mostly provided by Ally Walker. The sequence where Van Damme strips down naked and asks her to feel him up to find "something hard" (a tracking device) had me rolling on the floor.

Though there are some great action sequences, the film sometimes takes it's sweet time getting there and the pacing could have been picked up a bit either by better writing or editing. There are also some completely pointless actions sequences. One of these scenes has Van Damme in a diner beating the shit out of everyone after they confront him about paying for food. NO POINT TO THE PLOT. Another has a scene "Drago" confront a group of cowboys at a truck stop. These two scenes seem to be added at the last minute in order to pick up the film's pace yet they add nothing to the plot flow.

This film is a B-action fan's dream as it has two of our biggest action stars in one film. The budget was good so it has a nice glossy look to it and some great action sequences. Fans of these types of films won't let pace problems, over-used super soldier plot, and some bad acting stop them from enjoying it. Universal Soldier did prove to be so popular that it inspired a franchise still going to this day. It was followed by two ultra lame TV movies in 1998 (Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms, Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business), a lame theatrical sequel in 1999 (Universal Soldier: The Return), and a surprisingly decent direct-to-video sequel in 2009 (Universal Soldier: Regeneration) with a sixth film in works. Who knew a higher budget B-action film from the early 90's would have this long staying power?

Written By Eric Reifschneider


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  2. Great review. I love how 80's (and early 90's) action films often featured the mandatory 'bar-room brawl' (or here in a restaurant) ala any Chuck Norris or Seagal film. Nothing to do with the plot, but great scenes of kicking ass! JCVD is surprisingly good in these roles where he discovers his in Replicant