Universal Soldier Review

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Vietnam casualties Luc and Scott are ressurrected by the government 23-years-later and are turned into a killer anti-terrorist squad. thanks to the wonders of genetic engineering. But when their memories return Luc defects from the unit and psychopath Scott remembers a grudge from their 'Nam days and goes after his partner.


Take a pair of second-string hulks and give them the kind of budgetary back-up Arnie or Sly would expect, then set them loose on a script which mixes sci-fi, martial arts, exploding gas stations, sadistic wisecracks and post-Nam angst, and what you’ve got is Universal Soldier.

It opens in Vietnam in 1969 with a bleeding heart private (Van Damme) scragging a psychopathic sergeant (Lundgren) who has been collecting ears from innocent bystanders, then cuts to the present day when the deep-frozen dead have been revived for use in an experimental military programme whereby well-trained zombies are let loose with enormous weapons and deployed every time a terrorist incident threatens the integrity of the USA.

Naturally, a few wires get crossed and both the good and bad muscleheads start reverting to their old personalities, Jean-Claude haring off across country with a lady journalist (Walker) in tow in search of the truth about his resurrection, while Dolph slaughters all and sundry in an extended Nam flashback while giving out terrible one liners (“I’m all ears”) whenever he does anything especially violent.

Of course, while Jean-Claude — whose accent sounds more like something you’d expect from a soldier killed in Indochina in 1954 rather than Vietnam in 1969 — gets terribly sensitive en route to a reunion with his parents, Dolph, a foot and a hairstyle taller than the hero, gnashes his teeth at the prospect of a last-reel punch-up involving do-it-yourself steroids and handy multi-pronged farm implement.

The action is interrupted only by pre-digested plot chunks and Linda Hamilton lookalike Ally Walker’s fairly irritating hyperactivity, and both the he-men are given a chance to get away from their direct-to-video roots.

Van Damme, who is so proud of his bottom that he makes sure it appears in each of his films, does a sub-RoboCop bewildered act but cuts loose whenever he gets to show off his high kicks, while Lundgren, not really happy as the nice guy of his last few films, demonstrates that nature and his hairdresser have really cut himout to be a major Nazi genengineered baddie. Few Academy Awards but lots of ticket sales.

Given that director Emmerich is responsible for two of the worst movies ever released — Ghost Chase, Moon 44 — this thick-headed item is miraculously well put together.