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Universal Soldier II: Brothers In Arms

Some movies you hear about for so long that you almost don’t really believe you’ll ever see it. You always think of it as being something far off in the distance somewhere, then next thing you know it’s there and you weren’t even ready. Everybody’s rushing to get their thoughts online, but I’m a little slower than some people because I want time to process it. I know alot of people are curious what I think about this highly anticipated sci-fi release. I’m sure opinions will be all over the place, but I gotta say that no matter whether you are disappointed or blown away it’s really exciting to see an old favorite coming back, trying to give the fans something new. It’s quite a time to be a fan of these types of movies.

mp_universalsoldieriiI’m talking of course about UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 3, the new one which is gonna reunite Dolph Lundgren with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I will be seeing it shortly and let you know what I think, but first I had to straighten out a few things about this series. You see, there are four UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movies that have come out previously to part 3. Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m not a mathematical genius – or a mathematical average, for that matter – but by my calculations part 5 cannot be part 3. Or at least the odds are against it.

So I decided to investigate, renting the sequels to the 1992 original that still to this day remains Roland Emmerich’s, uh, best movie. Hahem. Not to get too hyperbolic on you, I don’t want to raise your expecations too high.

Parts 2 and 3 are on VHS only, and don’t have Van Damme in them. And the very first credit answers the numbering conundrum: “The Movie Channel Presents…” See, these were made for cable, and in the grand scheme of things “made for cable” ranks lower than “made for video,” therefore these sequels can be disregarded and erased in the event that the original star returns. Which makes me see THE SUBSTITUTE series in a different light, come to think of it. I’m not sure what this means for SNIPER 3 though since it was made for cable but still starred Tom Berenger.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II almost seems like a TV series – it even has the subtitle, “Brothers In Arms,” written in quotes at the beginning like an episode title. Gary Busey and Jeff Wincott are listed as guest stars or special appearances or something.

It starts with a fight between two similar looking musclemen which ends with one muscleman having his hand impaled and being crunched up in a threshing machine, and that’s when you realize Van Damme and Lundgren’s characters have been recast. Matt Battaglia plays Van Damme’s character Luc Devreaux, still with the fugitive TV reporter Veronica Roberts (now played by Chandra West [PUPPET MASTER 4-5]), hiding out as his parents’ house, learning things that robotic zombie soldiers don’t know about, like kissing and knock knock jokes.

But a corrupt mercenary (Gary Busey) is taking over the Unisol program, and they come after Luc and take him back. There’s a boring section of the movie where Veronica is driving around looking for him, but it pickes up once she sneaks into a military compound and unfreezes Luc’s older brother Eric, who was blown up in Vietnam. He’s played by Jeff Wincott (MISSION OF JUSTICE‚ and he’s just resurrected, not super soldiered, so he acts like regular Jeff Wincott, except a little confused because he’s from the ’60s and doesn’t know about twist off caps.

I can’t really recommend this exactly, but it winds up being more watchable than most DTV. It seems like they’re actually trying, putting in some energetic cuts and camera moves and using alot of different typs of music, from pop to classical. There’s one great moment of crazy and it’s set to the overused but never gets old “Spirit In the Sky.” Busey arrives to meet with a group of soldiers, who are surprised to see him alive. He tells them they’ve been chosen because they’re the best , and they should be very proud. Then he pulls out a machine gun and mows them all down. Then it shows a tear coming out of his eye. Beautiful.

Despite his guest star credit, Busey gets plenty of screen time and he’s in the much preferred post-accident Crazy Busey mode. He has some funny tought guy lingo and metaphors, like when he’s demonstrating the Unisols to a terrorist, the guy pulls out an empty briefcase and pours a pouch of diamonds into it, and BUsey says, I take it we’re engaged.”

The guest star billing should actually go to Burt Reynolds as the shadowy puppetmaster seen mostly just at the end, like David Carradine at the end of KILL BILL VOLUME 1.

The action isn’t anything memorable, and there’s not any significant gore or anything. There’s a funny part where she finds a drawer full of eyeballs. Also it shows the dude’s ass at the beginning, maybe as a tribute to Van Damme. That’s the different between network TV and The Movie Channel: ass. Well, unless you count NYPD BLUE, that’s network TV that shows ass. But most shows don’t.

Battaglia I guess was a football player, and he makes Howie Long look like Jeremy Irons. I really can’t tell how much of his monotonous performance is playing a zombie soldier and how much is limited range. Either way it works – uncharismatic, but funny. And having Jeff Wincott to bounce off of makes it more bearable.

“Highly anticipated! UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II [is] bearable!” says Vern of outlawvern.com

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I’ll have more reviews coming your way including UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III: UNFINISHED BUSINESS, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN, AVATAR, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 3: A NEW BEGINNING, etc.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 20th, 2009 at 4:19 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

33 Responses to “Universal Soldier II: Brothers In Arms”

  1. Watched the first universal soldier recently and enjoyed it more than when i recall seeing it in the cinema. One thing that did stand out was dolph’s performance. Along with Dark Angel, it for me marked a period in his career where he didn’t seem to be trying to act to much and as such his performances actually improved (compare to say Red Scorpion).

    Its amazing how much better a Roland E film is when he isn’t going all out to impress us with his special effects and wreck something (eg. godzilla, Day after Tomorrow, 2012).

    Not sure if i can go any further with the Unisol series, i’ve seen a couple of trailers for the other movies and i’m afraid it may taint my opinion of the first.

    So thank you Vern for putting yourself in harms way for the benefit of the rest of us.

  2. Universal Soldier 2 fucked my eyeballs!

  3. Busey’s monologue in Survivng the Game about how his Dad made him train a dog then fight the dog to the death is unbelievable. Just absolutely terrifying.

  4. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER I saw recently, and it was pretty average at best. But people remember it fondly probably because:

    (1) For many people, two of their childhood action star idols (Van Damme and Dolph) together.

    (2) Silly if fun premise

    (3) Emmerich’s best movie. Which isn’t saying much.

  5. Speaking of great Busey movies, have you guys seen Eye of the Tiger? I believe it was made pre-brain damage so you don’t get as much wackiness from Busey himself, but the movie itself makes up for it. It starts out your standard smalltown vigilante movie where a guy and his family gets targeted by a biker gang, but by the end it’s the kind of movie where Yaphet Kotto flies around in a Sopwith Camel, chucking molotov cocktails while listening to James Brown. But most of the weirdness is just watching Busey try to be a normal guy. That’s not a face that should be kissing love interests onscreen.

  6. I’ve seen Universal Soldier 1 & 2 , the originals . But I didn’t even know that 2 “unofficial” sequels existed . What’s the appeal of this concept ? Zombie soldiers ? Cheap Terminators ? Yeah that sounds good but for me the resulting movie by Emmerich was underwelming , with a few good spots .In the first you’ve got 2 iconic 80’s action stars , in the second Van Damme , Michael Jai White and , for the wrestling fans , Bill Goldberg . I love Gary Busey , and if I get the chance I will watch the made for tv sequels , but I don’t understand what the producers were thinking.

  7. Talking about Busey: Gary & Jake are announced as guest stars for the next “Weekend Of Horrors” on May 8 & 9 2010 in Bottrop/Germany. I will SO be there (especially because Danny Trejo, George Romero, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Tom Atkins are announced as well! [Sorry for the advertisement. I swear I got nothing to do with this event. I’m just excited!])

  8. CJ Holden – You know I’m saddened with Gary Busey’s career state. The dude is so fucking good, maybe even better than his dad*, that I thought after THE FRIGHTENERS and STARSHIP TROOPERS and shit, he would break out and not be stuck doing the same psycho villains, psycho sidekicks that details his father’s career.

    *=People forget about Busey’s Oscar nod for playing Buddy Holly. No shit.

  9. And you wanna see Gary Busey special brand of crazy ? A while ago he was in some trailers for a game called Saint Row , just a couple of short clips . Here’s one :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQdTcwGtcW4&feature=related

    Street Lessons with Uncle Gary . Awesome .

  10. I remember that Jake Busey starred in a very funny but short lived sitcom named “Shasta McNasty”. And of course his dad had a guest role in one episode. :D

  11. RRA:

    You’re talking about Jake. And yes, he was very good in The Frighteners, which I will always maintain is criminally underrated.

  12. Surviving the Game – I thought it was enjoyable enough for a single watch, but I wouldn’t watch it again. I hate how it does that whole slasher-movie thing of having the characters deaths occur in inverse order to how interesting they are. So you have the most interesting guy die first, followed by a succession of lesser characters, leaving the least interesting ones left at the end. Why exactly is Ice-T’s ire focussed on Rutger Hauer? He’s not even the one that betrayed him.

    And yeah, I think the log cabin scene at the very beginning, with Gary Busey’s monologue in particular, is by far the best scene in the movie. If the rest of it were that good (Tarantino would’ve found a way to do it) then it could’ve been great. As it is, it’s merely watchable. Not a disaster, but it didn’t particularly take me anywhere I didn’t expect it to go.

    Universal Soldier – After Alien and The Terminator, this is probably the third best “Secret Military Project goes berserk and kills everybody” movie out there. I liked the female character (Ally Sheedy?) a lot more than Vern did, and thought it was a lot better than the majority of dumb action flicks out there, but it’s no “Terminator”.

    Universal Soldier 2 – I can’t say I’ve ever seen it. Nor do I plan to, after reading this review. Sure, Vern and I disagree on some films (I thought “Hostel” and Juno” were fantastic, hated “Star Wars Ep 3”, and disliked “Wolf Creek”) but I definitely agree with him on a lot of stuff. For example, I think “Marked for Death” is definitely in the top rank of Seagals, and probably the best one I’ve seen overall (and I’ve seen most of the early ones).

    Jake Busey – he was one of my favorite things about “Starship Troopers” (which is a very, very, very good movie btw, and doesn’t come close to deserving the bad press it got IMO.) I can’t recall what else I’ve seen him in. I’d have to look on IMDB. But that would require moving a mouse to the top of my screen and changing a tab, and I’m way too lazy to do that…

  13. jsixfingers – Sorry, thanks for pointing out my typo.

    Jake was also the escaped convict in IDENTITY, a watchable movie until that stupid final twist.

  14. Yeah, I think the twist in Identity is seriously one of those things that just force every viewer to decide for themself if they accept it or just jump off the boat and officially declare the movie for ruined. (For me it worked, although I haven’t watched the movie for a second time yet and therefore got no idea if and how it holds up ifyouknow the twist.)

  15. Oh yeah, I forgot about “Identity”. Another movie that I enjoyed a lot more than I think many other people did. I don’t think it quite succeeded in what it was trying to do, but it’s fun watching it try.

    I like how the twist was handled. About halfway through the film (I’m trying not to spoil anything here) I was thinking “Well really, the only person who could have staged-managed two of the deaths was…” but then they hit me with the whole identity thing, swiftly followed by the whole gunfight-stalking business. The only complaint I have is that, as well as the last line being more misogynistic than shocking (it felt kinda cheap), the certain person mentioned above really wasn’t characterised enough given their importance to the picture as a whole. But these are minor things. It’s a great little mystery flick that I thought deserved more praise than it got.

  16. CJ Holden/Paul – To be fair with IDENTITY, gimmick nonsensical (or not) twist, director James Mangold in all his movies (good or not) seems to always get the best out of his actors.

    Of course that may not seem like serious praise, but maybe I defend Mangold because well he tries to usually give drama jobs to Robert Patrick, which is cool.

  17. God I hate IDENTITY. It’s such a rote version of the Ten Little Indians story to begin with, somehow shot to look slick and like cheap TV show all at once. And then comes the legendary PREDICTABLE HOLLYWOOD GROANER OF A TWIST ENDING that might as well be the i.e. in the Encyclopedic entry on the subject, where the shocker is that the writers probably never took a psychology class. The thing is one big exposed nerve ending of cliche. It’s what I imagine would become of “THE 3”, the script Donald Kaufman is writing in ADAPTATION. Didn’t this Mangold guy do WALK THE LINE as well? He sure likes his Formula. I liked 3:10 TO YUMA but didn’t think it was thaaaat great, and remember liking COPLAND and HEAVY when they came out though. You just better spice things up a bit soon here, Mangold.

  18. Gwai-Lo – You’re a bit ambiguous with your wordage there. Let us know how you really feel…

    Interesting point about “3” in “Adaptation”. Some reviewer made the same point around at the time the films came out.

    FTR I loved Adaptation right up until the last twenty minutes, at which point I think it tried to be “satirical” about its subject matter and ended up blowing itself out of the water. And before anybody says I didn’t “get” it – I know exactly what the director was trying to do, I just didn’t think it worked.

  19. Patrick Stephenson

    December 20th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Vern, you started a sentence with “You see,”. Are you turning into Harry Knowles? #sayitaintso

  20. I saw the discussion on ADAPTATION.’s ending in the other thread but didn’t contribute. FTR I think the last twenty minutes, where Donald and his mainstream sensibilities take over to provide a decisively action-packed third act, has as much place in Kaufman’s statement on the form as the gussied up Oscar-bait stuff taken from The Orchid Thief. The brilliance of the film is that it deconstructs structure, and then realizes that it needs that structure once it’s disassembled. In a purely experiential sense I enjoy the beginning of ADAPTATION. more than the ending, but the fact that the movie shifts into paint-by-numbers thriller mode at the end doesn’t take away from my appreciation of the wry joke Kaufman is making.

  21. I’m sorry but I still blown away by somebody using “very funny” and “Shasta McNasty” in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is “I think it’s very funny how Shasta McNasty was greenlit to be an actual TV show.”

  22. Come on, watch the coupon book episode of Shasta and tell me that was a bad show. (Also this show was probably the first time where Verne Troyer had a real acting job, instead of just being used as a prop because of his size. [I’m not saying they didn’t use his size for jokes from time to time.])

  23. Hilarious, Vern. But seriously, where’s your friggin’ Avatar review? Cook it up already!

  24. The only Universal Soldier I’ve seen is the new one. It was one of the secret screenings at Fantastic Fest this year. Dolf was there. Pretty great flick. I think you’ll be pleased. You should really get to Austin one of these years. Get Harry to hook you up with one of them VIP badges. You’ve reminded me I need to go watch the original film. Hope you like the new one.

  25. Great review Vern. This movie came on cable a couple months ago and I was confused as to what it was because I knew there was a theatrical sequel that unfortunately didn’t have Burt Reynolds or Gary Busey in it. I have seen the trailer for the new Universal Soldier and it looks like it could be good. I also recently watched the first half of Command Performance written, directed by and starting the one and only Dolph Lundgren. If you have not checked it out yet I would recommend it. It would be a great DTV feature for you to review. Speaking of Dolph I don’t know if any of you are fans of “It Is Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, but on a more recent episode Charlie and Mac came up with the idea for a movie pitch about a scientist that can smell crime with his super nose that would be played by Dolph Lundgren. The catch is it would be the first action movie to feature full penetration sex scenes. The title of the movie was “The Smell of Penetration”. Since seeing the episode every time I think of Dolph can’t help but think of the unmade master piece that is “The Smell Of Penetration”.

  26. A Super Nose? I’d bet $20 bucks that Seagal will have that ability in an upcoming LAWMAN episode. He’ll be sniffing out holes.

    Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

  27. I’m gonna go ahead and jump in about twenty posts late and say that I really, really like Identity. I enjoy it so much that I’m entirely willing to forgive the cop-out multiple personality ‘nothing is real’ bullshit they wrote themselves into a corner with. I mean Cusack, Liotta, Busey, McGinley, Molina, the movie is carried alone by its cast, especially Cusack as the limo driver who may or may not also be a secret badass, and Ray L playing creepy ‘somethings just not right’ guy. I’ve showed that movie to so many people and half the time I lose them in the last 15 or so minutes, but seriously, I really don’t mind the ending. Maybe my conciousness was just yet to overload on those weak ass endings, but the first 3/4 made up for the last 1/4.

    Alright. Back to your normally scheduled talkback.

  28. Footnote. That poem in the film is fucking creepy.

    When I was going up the stairs I met a man who wasn’t there, he wasn’t there again today, I wish I wish he’d go away…

  29. Tim Brooke Taylor

    January 3rd, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    “I can’t really recommend this exactly…”

    This is always my favorite line in your reviews, Vern. It guarantees that the movie will be fun!

  30. Just saw it on Netflix Instant – can’t exactly recommend it either, but it’s passable; a good movie to watch while folding laundry. The leads are likable, there’s some funny lines, and as Vern said, great/weird use of different kinds of musical cues you don’t expect in DTV. Of note: 1) I like how you think Busey is just out for money (like Hans Gruber) when he tries to sell the Unisols to the terrorists. But then he turns on them and tells his men “You think I would deal with scum like this??” It’s a great scene, well written and acted. 2) I like during the climax, they do the old “parallel fights” bit, except instead of intercutting Luc vs. the main Unisol with his brother vs. another Unisol, they intercut Busey having a fistfight with the love interest! Also, Busey’s final scene belongs on a highlight reel. It’s hilarious. Even if you don’t want to see this, skip to the last 10 minutes, because it’s worth it.

  31. That’s fucking spooky, man. I was just checking for George Lazenby’s old UNIVERSAL SOLDIER on NetFlix (It ain’t there.) to substantiate part of my comment on the THE MAN FROM HONG KONG thread, and I’m looking at the screen with this UNISOL movie on it, and I. . . almost brought myself to watch it.
    And we’re in the same state, Neal? Whoa, NC hive mind action going on here.

  32. Mouth – yup, there’s definitely some Vern/NC hive mind action going on. When I’m stuck working weekends, i try to sneak a little Netflix theme marathons in there. I only chose to watch the 2 straight-to-cable Universal Soldier sequels because the Red Riding Trilogy seemed too heavy and i’m too lazy to read subtitles at work, so “The Girl with…” Trilogy was out. Universal Soldier II and III were just about perfect for a lazy afternoon.

  33. Yeah, I’m at the office, too. And I ended up watching this thing after all. It was pleasantly music-driven. Not a terrible movie, but I’m glad I decided to also have a little monitor devoted to various baseball games at the same time while I watched UNISOL 2: BROS IN ARMS on the 40 inch and checked business-related stuff on my other computers. It’s a slow day, a good day for NetFlixing, but still a work day.

    I actually forgot about the reviews’ spoilery parts, so I was genuinely surprised when I saw Burt Reynolds at the end. How the fuck did I not ID that ‘stache earlier in the partial face shot?

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