When Luc Devereaux is killed in Vietnam by the crazed Andrew Scott they are both secretly reanimated as super soldiers. Years later, Luc and Scott begin to regain their memories and Luc has to help a snooping reporter escape from Scott’s clutches. Can they stop Scott and perhaps find love before it’s too late? Find out in… Universal Soldier.
How?! Luc Devereaux is an all-American hero with an all-American Cajun accent (duh). In Vietnam one of his fellow soldiers, Andrew Scott, goes insane and kills a bunch of villagers before turning the gun on Luc. They end up killing each other and are regenerated in super soldiers as a part of a secret military project.They are used to great effect until Luc and Scott begin to regain their memories. At the same time a reporter, Veronica, discovers the secret to the program and to the shock of the military Luc helps her escape. Now in hot pursuit, the Universal Soldiers leave a wake of destruction while Luc relearns all the basic functions of life and Veronica ponders whether falling in love with a dead guy is A-OK because he’s not really dead… right? Luc and Veronica try to find out more about the program, always staying a step ahead of Scott, who eventually goes completely rogue. Finally, in the bayou of Louisiana, Luc is reunited with his mother and father. Happiness is short-lived, however, as Scott finds them and an all out brawl ensues resulting in Luc pushing Scott into a farm machine. He is gruesomely murdered but he was already dead so through a loophole in the law Luc isn’t tried for murder. He is crowned champion of the Universal Soldiers and he and Veronica probably get married but never (NEVER) talk about how he’s actually a dead person. THE END.
Why?! A lot of this is pure coincidence really. The main thrust of the plot is driven by Veronica wanting to get the big scoop about the UniSol program. She just got fired and wants to really stick it to her bosses. By sneaking into the top secret Unisol base she becomes a fugitive whose only hope is a totally confused Luc. He just wants to figure out what the fuck is up because he’s pretty sure he’s a dead person but everyone else is telling him he’s not a dead person. Andrew Scott is crazy and acts accordingly.
Who?! There is so much for the who in this. Basically every Unisol GR unit is notable in some way. One is Tiny Lister, former wrestler and POTUS in The Fifth Element. One is Eric Norris, youngest son of Chuck Norris and race car driver. One is Ralf Moeller, who was a professional bodybuilder and competed in Mr. Olympia. And finally one is Simon Rhee, who is a big martial arts stunt actor. Added bonus is JCVD’s son Kris appeared uncredited as a younger version of his dad.
What?! Solid product placement with Pepsi where we get JCVD, relearning all the pleasures of life, sitting down to eat at a restaurant and tasting a delicious Pepsi for the first time. Next thing you know and he’s slammed twenty Pepsi’s because who can resist such refreshment? No one. It’s a universal pleasure.
Where?! Veritable Road Trip Alert with this guy. We get an opening in Vietnam that transitions to the Hoover Dam in Nevada. Once JCVD and Veronica are on the run they travel to Arizona, Utah, and eventually Louisiana for the climax (all with specific intertitles). The best part is that I’m not sure what I would classify as the dominant setting… Louisiana I guess, but Utah has an argument too. B+.
When?! The grades for these sections aren’t exactly set in stone (shocking I know), but if I were to make a hard and fast rule I think the “Present Day” intertitle is a good example of a D score. Sure it’s telling you something, but as vaguely as possible. Otherwise I didn’t catch any other specifics about the date and time. But that’s on me.
I enjoyed this movie plain and simple. I can understand the bad reviews. It’s a knock-off of a Sly Stallone or Schwarzenegger film with worse acting. There is just no way this actually gets good reviews… because it’s bad. But there is something fun about the movie (not surprising as it’s early Emmerich) and I think this is also probably the best you’ll see JCVD in terms of acting. Unlike other films where he has to act like an actual person here he gets to act like a robot person who doesn’t remember he’s human. He barely talks and mostly just has a vacant look in his eyes. I was like “woah, he’s actually doing a good job.” Until I saw the sequel to the film and realized it was only made possible by constraints of the script. Made me think that the rest of the series would just be boring rehashes of the same shit… boy was I wrong.
‘Ello everyone! Sometimes you just get that feeling, that JCVD feeling, JCVD … feeling, baby, JCVD feeeeeeling. And when you get that feeling you get to watch Universal Soldier! Let’s get into it!
P’s View on the Preview – The instant I saw this was an early Emmerich I knew it was going to be kind of good. Combine that with pre-straight-to-DVD JCVD and Lundgren in peak Rocky IV shape and you got a stew going, baby. Honestly, this is exactly the type of film critics at the time would have dumped on, and now people (like me) will pick up and be like “rad”, so I went in expecting to like it.
The Good – And like it I did. One thing that can always save terrible actors like JCVD? Making him play a robot. The role he was meant to play to be honest. The idea of intentionally creating controllable zombies as soldiers is oddly unique and appealing. It immediately made me think about how in some sort of Evil Scientist Extended Universe they’d be making werewolves (gene splicing), and mummies (preserved sentient corpses) and stuff. Fun idea even if it is a bit wasted in the end. Oh, and of course … JCVD’s bodacious buns.
The Bad – I mean these guys aren’t good actors. The film felt a bit cheap, especially in the set designs which kind of just look like they were left over from the 80s to be honest. And the story is very derivative (JCVD’s Loc-bot 2000 might as well learned to give a thumbs up he’s such a rip off of The Terminator) and road trippy (although it mostly works). And finally the ending was telegraphed and pretty dumb with the super soldier serum. But all of these are either completely tolerable or very minor critiques of what is ultimately a pretty not-bad film that got dumped on at the time.
You Just Got Schooled – Well lucky for me there were two television films, so let’s discuss the first one a bit. Basically this was a sort of pilot for Showtime it seems. The main character is played by Matt Battaglia and … woof, he is just awful. He alone makes the film almost unwatchable. The main storyline is that Gary Busey is in charge of the Universal Soldier program and he’s going to sell it to the highest bidder (mercenaries!). Meanwhile Luc’s never-before-mentioned brother Eric has been activated and is helping Luc take Busey down. The film is boring, incomprehensible, and extremely Canadian (complete with retconning Luc’s hometown as being in Pennsylvania to excuse the obviously cold shooting temperatures). Straight hot garbage F——-.
The BMT – This one will get nothing, but will likely get a shout at the end of the year for being one of the genuinely decent films we watched in the course of 2019, it’s got that going for it. And it’ll be thrown onto the JCVD pile. I think of all the martial artists turned actors JCVD is on top of the second tier. The first tier might only have Jackie Chan in it BTW.
Welcome to Earf – This gets pretty easy. Dolph Lundgren is in both Universal Soldier and Expendables 3, which also stars Sly Stallone who was in Zookeeper with Kevin James, who was also in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Neal McDonough, who was also in Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li with Chris Klein, who was also in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earth! (BTW I’m creating a program that does this now. It isn’t complete, but even in its current form it would have suggested I go straight from Expendables 3 through Statham to In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale which stars Leelee. Idiot! I’ve actually used that path before).
StreetCreditReport.com – It shouldn’t really be that big of a surprise that it didn’t get much notice in 1992. It was considered bad, but not that bad. And it has its charm. This well and truly is just along for the ride with The Return. It is too bad there isn’t a better resource for this stuff though, it feels like the instant you venture away from the 2000s there is basically no worst-of lists to speak of. At least not online.
I’ll see you soon with the recap of The Return, the second (er … fourth?) in the Universal Soldier series. Cheerios,