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  Universal Soldier The Future Of Flaw Enforcement
Year: 1992
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker, Ed O'Ross, Jerry Orbach, Leon Rippy, Tico Wells, Ralf Moeller, Robert Trebor, Gene Davis, Drew Snyder, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Simon Rhee, Eric Norris, Michael Winther, Joseph Malone, Allan Graf
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: During the Vietnam War in 1968, one of the Privates, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) was involved in his platoon pulling out from the region they were stationed in when he was forced to confront his Sergeant, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) for whom the stress of battle had proven too much. When Luc walked in on him not only making a necklace out of the ears of the men he had killed, but terrorising a pair of innocent Vietnamese civilians, he knew it was time to act and tried to talk him down, but it was no use, Scott executed them both, one with his gun and the other with a hand grenade. Then he turned his attentions to Luc, and in the ensuing scuffle they both wound up dead at the other's hands...

Ah, but you don't kill off the two reasons anyone went to see this back in 1992, and sure enough they were resurrected as the Universal Soldiers, part of the Anusol - sorry, Unisol division of once dead but perfectly preserved fallen combatants who have been thawed out of their deep freeze containment and are now getting up to such shenanigans as destroying masses of terrorists, or the sort you got in nineties movies anyway, which had little connection to the real world. But then, you didn't watch a Van Damme movie, or a Lundgren movie for that matter, for their stark realism and this was strictly science fictional action we were dealing with, of a sort that James Cameron had ushered in during the eighties.

Yet Universal Soldier owed more to the grunt and shoot action flicks that Sylvester Stallone had brought to the big screen with the fantastical elements reserved for explaining why the invincible soldiers were able to keep hammering on in spite of bullet wounds and even explosions. Seeing as how pretty much any action star of the period was able to do so without the benefit of any made up technology you might wonder why they even bothered with the explanation, but it was a Dean Devlin scripted and Roland Emmerich directed film and they did prefer to include some sci-fi motivation for his mayhem. Even if this was a project that did not originate with Emmerich, it was fairly neatly slotting into his overall body of work.

And led to their blockbuster success Stargate shortly after, then Independence Day and so forth, efforts that sound pretty fun on paper but wore out their welcome for most when they actually watched them. Universal Soldier was a basic pie and mash deal when it came to nourishing motion picture interests, you were never more than ten minutes away from an action sequence and they were presented with enough efficiency not to get boring, yet there was a certain spark of personality lacking to the affair. Even Dolph's one-liners included "Are we having fun yet?" among other uninspired quips, dialogue that was overused as a baddie riposte even in 1992, and in spite of needing regular freezing to replenish their powers, the hi-tech undead soldiers never did anything surprising.

One thing you could depend on was the explanation for Jean-Claude's accent, that was, just how did a Belgian end up fighting for the United States during Nam? That was tied in with the end where we met Luc's parents in their isolated farmhouse, so isolated that all the young Luc heard growing up were his parents' intonations so there you had it, another watertight excuse. But being a veteran, he had to have flashbacks to the conflict as well, which is how he and Scott come back to the memories of their origins, only while Luc is a genial robot kind of guy a la Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Scott remains thoroughly off his rocker, hence the road movie turned pitched battle through Arizona that breaks out. To accompany Luc and prove he's not a homosexual no matter what those shots of his unclad arse may stir in male viewers was TV reporter Ally Walker, who we can tell is hardbitten since she chainsmokes, but that's her defining characteristic, after all Luc needed a damsel in distress to rescue. This spawned a bunch of sequels, but the first is a middling reminder of what was acceptable in action of the nineties. Music by Christopher Franke.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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