Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Before I say anything about my revisit to ‘Universal Soldier’ allow me to tell you that I saw the Special Edition DVD which featured an ‘Alternate Ending’. Worst Alternate Ending Ever. The original theatrical ending certainly wasn’t the be all to end all but thank goodness the powers that be didn’t roll with that alternate ending. As a matter of fact it was so bad that I would’ve kept that particular DVD Extra nugget on mothballs. Worst Alternate Ending Ever.

But back to the business at hand, I had just gotten through watching ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’ which certainly had its problems as a movie but did have plenty of solid action. I realized that I hadn’t seen the original ‘Universal Soldier’ since I peeped it at the theaters so, so long ago and I don’t even remember if I liked it or not. After watching it one more time again, which felt like the first time because I didn’t remember a single scene from that movie, I’m thinking I probably didn’t like this movie back in 1992 mainly because it was kind of stupid and me being in my twenties, like most young people in their twenties, tend to take things and themselves way to seriously. Now as an old man, crushed by the life’s inequities and failed expectations, we don’t take anything serious anymore. This is probably why revisiting Jean Claude and Dolph, who also were much younger themselves, was like jumping in a time machine with a new appreciation for a period when action movies were brisk and mindless and funny and you had to go to a theater to see them. Those were the days. And Jean Claude Van Damme was guaranteed to make you look at his naked ass. Guaranteed.

Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren) is insane. Pvt. Luc Devereaux (Van Damme) just wants to finish out his tour of duty in ‘Nam and go home. Part of Luc’s disillusionment could be due to the fact that he is the world’s oldest army private. Anyway Luc has decided he needs to stop Andrew from killing anymore people and they end up killing each other.

Fast forward to the always ubiquitous ‘present day’ where Luc and Andrew are looking very much alive. Along with a bunch of other large mean looking dudes, including the legendary Tiny Lister who didn’t get a single line in this movie.  These guys are UniSol’s, a group of formerly dead soldiers who have had their dead flesh regenerated and who now kick ass and take no names. Under the guide of Col. Perry (Ed O’ Ross) our UniSols are the best fighting team around, having no emotions, being impervious to pain and always following orders.

But there’s a glitch in the system. Luc, or GR44, starts to remember. In particular he starts to remember what an asshole Andrew, GR13, used to be. This all comes to a head when Luc is forced to betray his fellow UniSols and rescue this nosy reporter Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker) which now puts the whole UniSol force on in hot pursuit.  This glitch gets even worse when Sgt Andrew starts to remember what an asshole he used to be and how much he really enjoyed being an asshole. Now its road picture action movie time as Luc and Veronica hit the pavement to try to get to the truth while desperately trying to avoid the evil lunatic GR13 who thinks he still in Vietnam.

What is there not to love about this movie, especially as a piece of old school action flick nostalgia? I had completely forgotten how much personality Ivan Drago showed in this movie, a flair Dolph Lundgren has pretty much kept under wraps for most of his film career since then. "I’m All Ears…?" That’s classic right there. That’s an inside Universal Soldier joke if you haven’t seen it yet. Also when you revisit this movie you kind of remember why Jean Claude became a star in the first place as the man did have a definite charm and humor, in lieu of actual acting ability, to go along with his Brussels Muscles. Note that he didn’t bring a single drop of that charm to ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’. There was a certain comfort in watching actor Tico Wells, a Black guy, stop his boss from making the effort to kill Andrew Scott and volunteering himself. This is an actor who clearly understood how these things work, recognizing that he had been alive way too long in this movie and that it was now his time to die.

Sure the movie was plenty stupid, such as our rouge Colonel informing us that this program was illegal, though it was funded by the Pentagon at a quarter mil per UniSol. Talk about congressional oversight. Or watch our pretty reporter scour over the UniSol plans and comment ‘I can’t make heads or tails of this… but it seems have been enacted at the genetic sub-molecular level’. Imagine what she could discover if she actually could make heads or tails of those plans.

There are a lot joyful nuggets like this in ‘Universal Soldier’, a joy that was missing from that 18-year later sequel that we have just seen. No, it’s not a ‘good’ movie in the classic sense of good, and it did introduce the United States to the German director Roland Emmerich who go on to make much bigger, much dumber movies but ‘Universal Soldier’ is still a mini-classic in its own right.

Real Time Web