Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) Mic Rodgers
Production Budget: $40 million
Worldwide Gross: $14 million
Subsequent Earnings: unknown
Sh*t, this movie. I had forgotten about it until the last couple of posts. You know, I am not expecting Dickens or Shakespeare when I watch a Van Damme movie, I just want something that makes the least bit of sense. So maybe someone can tell me why the main character of the movie, Deveraux, would work for the Universal Soldier program again after being re-programmed, hunted down and nearly killed in the first movie. Not just work for them, but be the top technical advisor and design a new breed of Universal Soldier for production. Seriously, this makes less sense than a Highlander sequel (if they existed).
It’s bad when you come into a movie with the lowest of expectations, looking for something/anything to entertain you and the movie fails to deliver. It is truly the mark of an awful director who can’t even entertain you with how bad it is (you gotta hand it to Ed Wood or Uwe Boll, at least their crap is somewhat funny). I can spend hundreds of words describing how Van Damme failed in this movie, but that is about 950 more than I care to. This movie sucks: the action sucks, the actings sucks, the story sucks, Goldberg sucks big hairy ones, Megadeth sucks for selling out and making a lame theme song for this movie, and I suck for watching it.
I remember when I first wrote this review it was a few years since I originally saw it so I was working on memory. I wanted to re-review my old articles because frankly I hated that practice and want to give the movie a fair shot. But man, did I ever hit the nail on the head in my original review.
I had reviewed the recent Direct to Video movie Universal Soldier: Regeneration where former stars Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren returned. I remarked on how it was an awesome movie for a DTV production but was confused by the continuity of the production. Van Damme’s character Luc was back to being this shell shocked and borderline psychopathic ex soldier with recurring flashbacks and is haunted by the war. This was in stark contrast as to how we saw Luc in part 2 and I didn’t realize how bad until I saw it again.
In The Return, Luc is back to being completely living (a doctor cured him of being dead) and was a well adjusted wise cracking individual with no negative effects of the war. In fact, he even was married and has a daughter! Not only that, instead of fighting the Unisol program he is working for it and is their biggest supporter. I mentioned how baffling this was in my old review but let me restate this again. This makes no freaking sense. Yeah, Luc tries to justify it by saying it would be more suitable then sending thousands of people to die in wars but that doesn’t fly. :Let’s just sidestep the moral quandary of re-animating the dead and taking away their free will making them unquestioning automatons. The simple fact is Luc is an incredible hypocrite for not wanting to be a Universal Soldier by not just fighting them but exposing them to the press and also by reversing his operation. But now he wants to subject hundreds and even thousands more to the very treatment he opposed before? This continuity really is on par with a Highlander sequel.
The plot of the movie is that Luc is trying to work on better Universal Soldier. They do this with the help of an artificial intelligence that runs the base called SETH (later in human form by Michael Jai White). Wow, this is so incredibly stupid I almost can’t put it to words. This is like re-starting the Skynet program and putting HAL 9000 in charge of it. I mean, does no one see even the possibility of a problem of letting an artificial intelligence run a group of unquestioning/nearly indestructible killing machines? To top it all off, the base is sitting on a store of biological weaponry. So if anything did go wrong, there was no chance to bomb the base from the air stopping the soldiers from rebelling. Too…stupid…for words…THE PAIN!!! Sure enough the Unisols rebel when the project is terminated by the Government and Van Damme has to kick box all the Unisols to death.
This movie is facepalmingly bad. The acting is horrendous. Van Damme is trying to top Guile from Street Fighter for the most incomprehensible smug dipshit he has ever played. His constant mugging for the camera is almost too much. He also has a love interest in the film who is this shrill Lois Lane type reporter who shrieks out lines like “You can’t hide this from the press! You are my story! Blargh! Waaaaaahhh!” The worst however is wrestler Goldberg as the recurring villain of Romeo. I know SETH is the main villain, but really Goldberg is taking over for Lundgren’s role and it is pathetic when you see it. You go from a psycho scary dude who collects ears to the comic relief of Goldberg. Van Damme and Goldberg have like 6 scenes together which all amount to Goldberg trying to attack Van Damme and Van Damme finding some comical way to escape. For example in one scene he sidesteps a spear from Goldberg and locks him in an elevator or in another scene Goldberg jumps out and Van Damme quickly kicks him out a window. This is all followed by the recurring joke by Goldberg is when he says “I really hate this guy.” There isn’t enough Wah Wah music in the world to make that funny. When did the villain become a Wily Coyote cartoon?
This movie is just pathetic. Even the fight scenes are staged like a Uwe Boll movie. Every fight scene is just a music video. I really am not kidding here. A hard rock song starts up, a chase scene or a fight scene starts, and we keep going and going and going until the entire song is done. This happens in every one of the action scenes. You know music is supposed to compliment the action; it is not the other way around.
Look I like a cheesy Van Damme movie as much as the next guy. But even in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way it is still just bad. Nothing about this movie is good or redeemable. This makes Knock Off (the story of exploding jeans) seem like War and Peace by comparison. This movie is horrible and I feel dumber for having watched it again.