So once again we have survived.

Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business & Universal Soldier: The Return

tn_usreturnRemember, I said I was gonna review all the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movies? I wasn’t lying. Here’s my reviews of the third and fourth installments in preparation for the brand new part 3 that comes out next week.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III: UNFINISHED BUSINESS continues from part 2, clearly shot back-to-back and even including a “previously on Universal Soldier” type montage. Burt Reynolds is the sleazy CIA director trying to stop Luc Deveraux (Matt Battaglia, not Van Damme) and the reporter from revealing the UniSol program. I’m sure he wouldn’t get in trouble, but Congressional hearings are probly a pain the ass, you gotta go to bed early the night before, get your suit cleaned, send your lawyer a thank you note, all that shit. Easier to just stay out of the headlines.

mp_universalsoldier3Reporter Lady is still a fugitive, blamed for crimes she didn’t commit. They go to Canada to find her ex-boyfriend, a reporter on the financial beat she thinks could help. He’s covering “The Cyber Wealth Summit” where “the Cyber Community” of millionaires are all congregated, so she sneaks in disguised as a waiter while Luc waits outside. But some terrorists take everybody hostage – holy shit, it’s a DIE HARD ripoff within a UNIVERSAL SOLDIER sequel! You don’t see that every day. Luc saves the day and kills the bad guys, then it’s back to regular UNIVERSAL SOLDIER except the scientists turn the dead hostage takers into their next batch of UniSols.

More interestingly, the evil scientist is working on a new super soldier clone that starts out as a fetus and rapidly grows into a kid. He teaches the clone to call him father. I was hoping Luc would get to fight a little kid UniSol, but unfortunately it grows into his brother (still Jeff Wincott). The clone is brainwashed to not remember him, and to really fuck with his mind it has a bomb in its chest. Surprisingly, when the bomb goes off it seems to be an M-80. Interesting choice.

The ex-boyfriend’s in-movie lifespan is reminiscent of the car-bombed love interest in DEATH WISH III, and Reynolds’s so-bad-at-first-you-don’t-realize-it’s-supposed-to-be-an-accent accent is the weirdest since Dennis Hopper’s in TICKER.

I know there were a couple funny lines and weird touches, but I can’t find where I wrote them down and don’t remember very well. I think the clone kid killed a cat or something, and the scientist said he was proud of him. Something like that. At the end we learn that there are sleeper UniSols all over the country and they’re activated. The last one we learn about is then-President Bill Clinton. Stupid Republicans going after the blowjobs and the real estate vhsdeals, they had no idea this was right under their noses the whole time.

Director Jeff Woolnough went on to direct a whole bunch of TV episodes and a TV movie about Celine Dion. Writer Peter Lenkov got a story credit on DEMOLITION MAN and co-producer on BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN, which returned Emmerich and Devlin’s thrilling saga to the big screen, is about the time that the Universal Soldier returned, I guess. Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the role of Luc Deveraux, the Vietnam K.I.A. who was revived into a zombie super soldier and then went rogue and learned a few human emotions (a story that started in part 1 and continued with Matt Battaglia as Deveraux in parts 2 and 3). But this time he’s not a terminator, he’s an ordinary single father like any other Van Damme character. He’s in charge of training the UniSols for non-sinister computer genius Xander Berkeley (seriously, he’s a good guy in this, I’m not lying) while a super computer called SETH (voice of Michael Jai White!) tutors his daughter. But when government cutbacks force the cancellation of the UniSol program, SETH protects his interests by doing brain surgery on the soldiers and controlling them to do his bidding. And only Deveraux can stop them, because… because he’s the main character. And for some reason there’s a new pretty lady reporter there when the shit hits, so she becomes the female lead instead of Van Damme’s asskicking colleague, who has to go take car of his daughter.

mp_universalsoldierreturnI don’t really understand why they brought back Van Damme only to be unrecognizable as the same character. It seems like somebody told them it was the reporter lady that people liked about the first one, not the undead super soldier hero. So they team him up with a reporter again, but make him not an undead super soldier. Just an ordinary revived dead guy good at kickboxing (he just explains that they “reversed the process” so he’s alive and regular now).

The character SETH is pretty funny. I got a kick out of a super computer talking in a gruff Michael Jai White voice instead of the usual eerily calm HAL 9000 types. I bet if you wanted to you could go into the preferences and switch it to a Kris Kristofferson voice too. Later SETH puts himself into a bionic MJW body so he can fight Van Damme. In case you haven’t figured it out yet I really like MJW’s screen fighting style. Impressive kicks, heavy on poses, and he even does that move I’m a sucker for where you kick a chair so it slides across the floor. And he does it more than once. So obviously this isn’t a worthless movie.

SETH is supposed to be more enhanced than the other UniSol’s, so if Deveraux was dead it would still be an underdog story. But since he has no super powers it’s really unclear why he’s so evenly matched with SETH’s super strength. I guess just because he loves his daughter so much. My favorite part is a completely nonsensical move where he runs across the type of a bunch of lawn chairs and then up a wall. As far as I can tell it accomplishes nothing at all in the fight other than to look cool. I love it.

The producers I guess didn’t think Van Damme and White were big enough names, so they threw in WWE wrestler Goldberg as the lead henchman UniSol named Romeo. Not Whoopi Goldberg, I’m talking about the big bald meathead who starred in HALF PAST DEAD 2. He growls alot and gets alot of the funniest stupid lines, like when he’s on fire and says “I’m just getting warmed up!” You get it, because of he’s on fire, that’s why he says that. Warmed up, see.

The opening action scene (water ski chase through swamp) is pretty cool, but like many of the other action scenes it hobbles itself by using rock songs with crunchy guitars and troll voices. They keep using that as shorthand for “this part is awesome,” but I never buy it. I don’t know if maybe young headbanger kids who like that kind of music get pumped up for an action scene when they hear that, but to me it completely deflates it and seems desperate. “Hey kids, I know you are confused by this old Belgian man, but what about the rocknrollers? You like this stuff? They wear scary masks I bet! Let’s go download some MP3s together!”

There are a couple of clever action moments: whatsername riding Goldberg down a stairway like a sled, Van Damme watching the x-ray of his UniSol opponent so he can punch the face at the right angle to dislodge a faulty chip. But after that most of the fights are guys at some generic warehouse firing machine guns and huge explosions going off. Not much to it. It does have a few funny lines though, like when a strip club bouncer that Van Damme headbutted earlier comes after him with a bunch of friends and Van Damme pleads, “Please, no violence.”

This is a dumb movie, but adequate enough to hold your attention, and it has a few bright spots, like having JCVD fight MJW (but why does that come before fighting Goldberg?) Still, you only got so many days to live on this earth, and there are alot of other Van Damme movies.

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 Monday, January 25th, 2010 at 1:54 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.

10 Responses to “Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business & Universal Soldier: The Return”

  1. Nooo. I was too early… I read it, it finished, I wanted more, but there were no comments. I will do my part and write one.

    I´ve only seen the first film (which I really like most things about) and The Return you write about here. When I saw the return I was unaware that it had a theatrical release, and I judged from the expectations on a really crappy TV-movie-type sequel with a washed up Van Damme in it.

    Turns out I had a pretty great time from those expectations. Better than the average voter at IMDB anyway. My experience was probably made a lot better by the fact that I was also unaware of Mr. Jay White. So there were a few scenes that really stood out there when he showed up. I will probably always remember him as “The awesome guy from Universal Soldier 2”. Which might not be fair. But I will try to see more of his stuff.

  2. Fun Fact Vern – Goldberg only got casted because the filmmakers wanted “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but the WWF (acting somehow as his agent) turned them down because they wanted Austin only for their pictures.

    Which took almost forever for THE CONDEMNED to finally come out, and that was shit.

    Also, nobody else kinda wondering in RETURN how potent sperm really would be from a dead soldier-revived? I guess it would be.

  3. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that ex-Disney Channel Girl Christy Carlson Romano is in “The Return” listed as stunt player on imdb? (Don’t reply. It’s a rethorical question.) Even if it’s not one of the legendary imdb-oopsies, it’s a pretty weird fun fact, considering that she was only 15 at that time and it’s her only stunt credit.

  4. “I know there were a couple funny lines and weird touches, but I can’t find where I wrote them down and don’t remember very well.”
    Brilliant.
    Speaking of Goldberg and dumb movies, have you seen him in Santa’s Slay, Vern?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKrsAFWPnl4

  5. Stu…..what the fuck? What was that? That had to have been made for TV but is it comedy or horror? Poor Jimmy Caan. Doing scenes with Chris Kataan AND Fran Drescher? Christ.

  6. Saw Universal Soldier 2 yesterday and the fight scene with Michael Jai White seriously saved the movie! Everything else felt and looked way too much like a pilot for a TV series (from the time when the movie came out. Not today’s series, where every episode has a movie budget.). Not to mention that seriously nothing makes any sense!
    I mean, why should Luc want to have anything to do with the UniSol program? I can imagine him going all guerilla against them, but he is supervising it! (Maybe they washed his brain when they “reversed the process” and when his wife found out about it, they killed her and make it look like an accident. Talking about his wife, why are they writing her character out of the movie, just to show a wedding picture with an actress, that doesn’t look anything like who played her in part 1!?)
    But what really bothers me is that Goldberg’s character tried to rape a woman during the training, but although the woman complained about it afterwards, nobody really seems to care! It’s like this is normal behaviour for the new UniSols!

  7. class of fitness

    July 4th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    the sad thing is kiana tom, should of have a bigger role than that reporter did. its like they push her off to the side.

  8. I watched UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN and BLACK DYNAMITE back to back today. It was a good day.

    I watched the featurette on MJW on the UNISOL DVD. No matter how much his physique motivates me to get diesel like that, the diet (70% protein, 4 gallons of water a day, nothing with too much flavor when he’s trying to maintain peak form for shoots. . . ) he describes in his booming badass baritone isn’t worth it to me.

    I may be a toothpick next to MJW, but at least I know I could be mistaken for him on the telephone.

  9. Just finished Universal Soldier III on Netflix. It’s lots of fun and has some of the same goofy touches as part 2 (wacky musical cues, weird supporting characters who show up and are actually funny) Plus you really don’t know where it’s going! Like I totally thought it was going to turn into Die Hard but then that part is over in about 5 minutes. There’s a few characters you think would be a major character and then they get killed two seconds later. Or other characters who you think are cannon-fodder but then come into play later. It’s actually a pretty clever script.

    Two other things: 1) it’s weird that even though the brutality is stepped up from the previous movie, this one actually kind of has a big heart – there’s something that happens w/ one of the brainless Unisol Thugs that I didn’t see coming in a movie like this. 2) I really don’t think Regeneration entirely disregards this movie. The whole idea of cloning instead of regenerating, and specifically the end scene of this one are blatantly paid homage to in Regeneration, something else i didn’t expect!

  10. On Burt Reynolds’s mustache, a subject I know is especially popular around these parts and virtually everywhere in the free world, via Ron Mexico at ruthlessreviews.com:

    **”There are not, nor can there ever be, enough words written about Burt Reynolds’ mustache. You can search the annals of the innernet and will always come up thirsty for more sentences devoted to that angelic crecent which hypnotizes all who gaze upon it. Righting or should I say writing that cosmic injustice is an obligation my spirit will never escape. I did not elect this charge for it elected me. I’m imprisoned to express my endless love for the way his nose hairs tumble out of his nostrils and seamlessly blend into the rest of that furiously kempt model of machismo resting above his lip. And the way the ends, or should I say edges (for there is no end to something eternal) taper into perfectly triangular pinnacles collapsing over the corners of his grin make me want to unremember all that was before. It is here I die. No woman could deny its pull. No man its glory. It would make every beast of the field rebel against master and nature alike. Rick Moranis could shrink a hundred kids and banish them into those coarse, thick stalks of wonder and they would soon forget their modern lives, content to dwell in a follicle forested utopia, reserved for the holiest of holies.”**

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>