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This review is from: Universal Soldier [DVD] (DVD)
Definitely a contender for Van Damme's and Lundgren's best, Universal Soldier is one of the best action movies of the early nineties, with plenty of explosive stunts, fights, a decent story, some fine acting, and lots of great dialogue. In the wake of Terminator 2 this, and most sci-fi action movies look inferior, but still this is a great watch for action fans, and may even please a few non-fans as a good slice of entertainment, or nostalgia. It's almost as if the 80s never went away.
Van Damme stars as Luc Deveraux, a marine in 'Nam. His superior is Andrew Scott, played with menace by Lundgren. Their team stumbles upon a village in 'Nam where Scott goes on a kill crazy rampage, wiping out men, women, and kids, and when Luc tries to stop him, they kill each other. Flash forward to the nineties and the US Army has managed to save and restore both Luc and Scott, as well as their team thanks to some futuristic Robocop nonsense. They are now part man, part computer - easy to control soldiers with a much higher skill and strength rate than any human could have. The Army has created this race of Super-Soldiers to undertake special missions, and they have a flawless success rate.
Veronica Roberts is a snoopy reporter who wants to follow the mysterious team, but can never get close. The soldiers are autonomous, doing whatever they are told, and with no memory of their past lives. However, as all computers inevitably turn against their masters, Luc and Scott begin to have flashbacks. Soon Scott kills Veronica's cameraman, while Luc saves her life, becoming a renegade from his group, from the military, from the Government. He begins to remember everything, his human part taking over, while Scott takes control of his team with the sole objective of killing Luc and Veronica. It is deliberately unclear whether Scott's evil are remnants of his human half, or merely the computer half gone berserk. The chase begins.
Once we accept the Universal Soldier's abilities etc, the story is simple - we of course know it will end with a final confrontation between the two stars. Between these two points there is a lot of action, gun fights, bombs, the usual, but it is done with a fair amount of skill and style. Emmerich was already showing signs of the bloated big-budget epics he would later create. Van Damme does well as a cyborg and has little to say, but shows off his martial arts skills which is what we are here to see. Lundgren has even less to say but is effectively sneering. Walker is the feisty heroine and gives a fine performance, and the rest of the cast range from grunts with guns to comedic parts. There is a good amount of humour which helps to make the film more appealing, and there is the inevitable Van Damme nudity. There are some interesting elements involving the Government's control of mindless soldiers, sending in faceless masses to do their dirty-work, but this isn't overplayed or particularly important. Overall it is a simple, but effective and well-shot action film, and one of the best of its kind.
This special Edition DVD contains the requisite trailer, as well as a short making of documentary and a few other snippets for the fans.
*Originally written in 2005