Universal Soldier (1992)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Jean-Claude Van Damme/Luc
Dolph Lundgren/Andrew Scott
Ed O'Ross/Colonel Perry
Ex-RIP Vietnam era U.S. soldiers are somehow re-animated, brainwashed and made stronger through a shady present day "military” program called “Unisol”. But when two of the units (Van Damme and Lundgren) start to recollect their past lives and how they didn’t like each other too much back then, they go AWOL with one wanting to go home and the other wanting to kick the shite out of his peer and anybody else getting in his way. It’s the battle of the beefcakes! Who’s not happy?!
"Are we having fun yet?" - Andrew Scott
Man, I love this movie. When it was first released theatrically, "Universal Soldier" was, for me, an event of epic proportion. Two of my favorite wham-bam action stars in one bad ass sci-fi, action flick. Can you go wrong? Although not all that it could’ve been, "Universal Soldier" didn’t let me down and still came through like a dead on uppercut to the nads today.
This was one of those flicks that middle-aged critics loved to rip into upon its initial release. In fact, here’s a quote from Roger Ebert’s Universal Soldier review: “I suppose there is a market for this sort of thing among bubblebrained adolescents of all ages.” Bubblebrained? BUBBLEBRAINED! Sorry tough guy, but I loved the film and consider myself to be an intelligent individual. I’m a moron because I like seeing Dolph Lundgren make necklaces with sliced off ears and say “Can you hear me?” into them? I’m a twat because I like seeing JC, driven by the munchies, kick all kinds of ass in a diner? How’s the view from that skyscraping pedestal buddy? Sheesh! Condescending critics’ aside...it’s like this folks: if you groove on gory action, pure entertainment and cinematic violence cranked up to the max...you’ll get a few pleasurable round-kicks to the noggin out of this one.
"Universal Soldier" was a slickly shot, highly brutal and relentless action rollercoaster ride that barely stopped for a whack attack. At its core, this bad mutha was basically an extended chase sequence that bombarded us with exhilarating scenarios, lots of gunplay and fist fights while at the same time always finding the right moments to inject a little humor here and there. That’s right soldiers, along with the carnage, the truck chases, the grenade fun, Lundgren’s gratuitous killing of innocents and Van Damme’s gravity defying kicks...we also get some well placed sexual innuendos, some funny lines and even a self-referential Van Damme quip. Fun shite!
On top of the physical happenings and the chuckles, the film also surprised me by managing to effectively put out a couple of credible emotional scenes. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t reach for the box of Kleenex or the “suicide” gun, but Luc’s plight did manage to slightly touch me on some level and to get that from a film of this nature, is quite a feat. Lastly there was THE MOMENT: The Lundgren vs Van Damme final fisticuffs. Although exciting in a “bar brawl” kind of way, I did wish the flick would’ve concentrated more on both men’s martial art fighting abilities to give us the ultimate showdown. Having said that, it was still a hoot and a half to witness. When Dolph says jump, you have to say how high? GOT IT! YEAH!!!!!!!
The film did have its flaws when it came to being more than bloody popcorn fun and having to address the details of its storyline. I mean, how did this whole “taking dead soldiers and re-animating them" thing work again? I’m not even sure the script knew. Talk about damn vague! I was also let down by the way the movie handled the Luc’s parents subplot. First and foremost, the actors playing them looked like actors playing parents versus real people. Second of all, the flick totally rushed through their reunion, way more interested in getting to the down and dirty stuff than actually taking the time to delve into the dramatic possibilities. But you know what? I said f*ck it. That’s the game "Universal Soldier" wanted to play and I was more than eager to go with it.
"Universal Soldier" didn’t pretend to be anything else than what it was and it excelled in what it wanted to accomplish. Don’t listen to the “high brow” mooks of the world. Last I checked, enjoying violent, mindless fluff wasn’t a sin and didn’t make you an imbecile. It just means that you know the difference between a thought provoking type of film and the POW WOW, lets have fun type of films. Who says you can't enjoy both! Where’s my freaking M-16? LET’S GO TO WAR!
Welcome to Andrew Scott’s butcher shop! We get sliced off ears, lots of bullets in the head, bullet in the eye, needle in the cheek, snapped neck, bullet in the face, a nasty spiking, a dude turned into chunks, open wound and a self stabbing.
Most critics always easily discard Van Damme and Lundgren as knuckleheads due to their accents and toned physique, but I digress. Van Damme (Luc) actually came through here and then some, bringing lots of sympathy, vulnerability and humor to the film by underplaying it all. The man also had impeccable comic timing. As for Lundgren (Scott), I bought him as a psycho Army man. Dolph went all out and gave an amusing, scene-chewing show. One of his best performances in my opinion! I’ve seen “respected” actors give worse shows in “high brow” movies than what these two tough guys put out here. Ally Walker (Veronica) took a so-so part on paper and fleshed it out through charisma and solid acting chops. Ed O'Ross (Colonel Perry) played a badass again…he did it well.
T & A
The ladies get treated well here and then some. They get all kinds of buff dudes shirtless (yes, Van Damme and Dolph too) and even get the token Van Damme butt shot. All we get is Ally Walker’s pouty lips…oh well…guess it will have to do.
Roland Emmerich gave the flick a mucho polished look and energetic feel that I couldn’t help but relish. The pace here was effortless, the slow motion arresting (all about the Van Damme rising fire scene), the smoke machine was in full throttle and the bluish lighting was bang on. Tag to that, some groovy angles and you get a well cooked slice of cheese cake.
We get an aggressive, edgy and mucho engaging score that knew when to go soft when it needed to.
Distributor: Lions Gate
IMAGE: We get a 16:9 Widescreen (2:55:1) image.
SOUND: We get a 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio options.
Audio Commentary: Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme (separately), Roland Emmerich, and Dean Devlin (together) all danced in to talk about how they came to work on the film, comment on specific scenes, on the actors’, backgrounds, on what they were aiming for when shooting and more! Although some dead time was present and Dolph and Van Damme didn’t blab enough for my liking, this was still a very insightful commentary! I’ve loved this film since it first came out and it was awesome to hear the main champs behind it discuss it.
Guns, Genes and Fighting Machines (18 minutes): This feature acted as a “making of” taking us on set and sporting interviews with Jean Claude, Dolph, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. Everybody was in a good spirit, obviously enjoyed making the picture and working with each other. Fun stuff feature!
Tale of Two Titans (14 Minutes): In this feature both Dolph Lundgren and Jean Claude Van Damme were interviewed separately. We get to know about both of their childhoods and paths in terms of how they made it in the business. I had a riot-act listening to these two gentlemen yap it up where both of them were heroes of mine while growing up. The only thing I hated about this feature was that they had a knack of showing a clip of anything they’d say. For example Dolph would say he trained, so they’d show a clip of someone training. That was pretty lame. But on the whole; I enjoyed watching this, Dolph and Van Damme own! I hope they work again together someday!
Alternate Ending (13 minutes): This alternate ending took me aback with an added plot twist in tow and a “touching” cap off to boot. I can see why they changed it where it was a tad too “deep” for the kind of movie it was. I did highly appreciate seeing it though. The bit where Luc gets mowed down by the government officials was mucho gripping!
We also get a bunch of Trailers for LG products.
Consider me a happy Universal Soldier fanboy when it came to this DVD!
Action fiends, violence hounds and rat-tat-tat junkies take notice, "Universal Soldier" was made for you. It's loud, it's fast, it's cruel, it's funny and it’s a blast. Is it the smartest flick on the block? HELL NO! But where it lacked in brain cells, it definitely made up in strong and potent overdoses of agressive adrenaline shots. Thanks guys...I needed that! “Say goodnight asshole”! “GOOD NIGHT ASSHOLE”!
Another ending for this movie was shot (and edited). It included a twist ending with Luc’s (Van Damme) parents being fake and Jerry Orbach's character (Dr. Gregor) coming in with an army.
The film was initially supposed to be directed by Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive").