This movie isn’t really as much a ‘Martial Arts’ movie as a straight out Action / Sci Fi – but Van Damme uses some cool stuff alongside with Dolph Lundgren. One of the interesting things I noticed was Michael Jai White in first few minutes of the film! A small part before he made it more into the mainstream and before Universal Soldier: The Return.
The movie starts way back in ‘Nam (1969). Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) is out in the field fighting the good fight, trying to help his men and basically being the ideal soldier. When he returns to a derranged Seargent Andrew Scott (played by Dolph Lundgren), he is faced with a moral dilemma, disobey an order from his superior and allow him to kill two innocent Vietnamese, or try to stop him – of course he disobeys and tries to save the Vietnamese. Unfortunately he fails, after both Vietnamese are killed. They then open fire on and kill each other.
25 Years later, a new ‘Universal Soldier’ program is devised the regenerates dead soldiers and makes them super strong but dosile – the perfect order following soldiers… or not quite. The soldiers start to show signs of their old personality.
When two reporters sneak on site GR13, formerly Sarge Andrew Scott, decides to kill on of them against orders. GR44, previously Luc Deveraux, decides to save the other. Much like the last moments of their life, the traumatic memory has taken over the minds, and they believe they are still in the war.
Naturally Luc breaks away from the ‘Unisols’ and takes the reporter with him to safety. While Sarge slowly becomes himself and kills the commanding officers and goes after the ‘traitor’ Luc, himself. With lots of gun fights explosions and Van Damme kicks.
Van Damme & Lundgren
Considering both men have strong Martial Arts background it was strange to see not so much hand to hand as there was good old fashioned shoot ’em up style action – which I guess was the big market at the time after the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies with muscle, explosions and guns being most popular.
Dolph’s character Sarge is especially screwed up! “They wouldn’t listen” he points out while wearing a necklace made of the ears of people he’s killed. But his imposing height (Dolph is 6’5″) and build make him an awesome villian thats quite intimidating. Dolph’s acting really sells the fact that Sarge is completely off his rocker crazy.
Van Damme’s Character Luc is is the opposite – he wants peace, less death and to just go home. He’s just a big softy who knows how to fire a gun and do big kicks. His mission is the take the female reporter Veronica out of harms way, and then go home. Which proves to be very difficult with the Sarge chasing them in truck that resembles a Decepticon from Transformers.
There’s something to be said about the ‘Unisols’
The idea that the you can control humans (yes even dead ones!) with technology is pretty out there, and in this case I think the idea that the last traumatic event behind the soldiers death being a constant mindset and possible malfunction is pretty solid. If these scientists ever saw Terminator they’d know not to screw around with stuff like that!
The different in strength is a pretty cool way to turn these soldiers into titans though, making the fight between Dolph and Van Damme that bit more intense. A lot of thought obviously went into the side effects of boosting the strength of the human body – with the ice baths having to cool down the bodies of the Unisols after a mission.
I say the ‘action’ because there’s not a lot to be said about the ‘Martial Arts’ of the film.
I’ve said it a few times, Van Damme loves his kicks – and so he should. While they aren’t shot as impressively as movies you see these days (or back in Hong Kong since the 70’s), they’re still impressive. Dolphs seemed to do even less martial arts, using his brute strength and an assortment of weaponry to take people apart (when he wasn’t coping a beating and simply laughing).
Both guys are the 90’s action heroes that people of the time loved. Built, ripped and imposing. The height difference is quite funny to see – Dolph towers over Van Damme, but this works in a David vs Goliath kind of way.
Most of the action is gun fights, explosions and a few chase scenes. It relies heavily on scale, everything is big – the explosions, the vehicles, the soldiers and their guns. It’s about brute force vs brute force, which is (if I may sound like an absolute meat head) done well in this movie.
What really makes this movie is the combination of action with the whole Universal Soldier program and pace of the chase – Sarge and his men hunting down Luc.
Would I recommend it?
If you want to watch a martial arts movie, which is why you’re probably on this site – then no.
It’s a blow ’em up, shoot ’em up action that happens to have two martial arts guys in it. But if you do want to watch a classic action flick – go for gold! This one isn’t deep, but it’s just a bit of fun to watch 🙂
Find it on Blu-Ray
Region A (US & Canada)
Universal Soldier on Blu-ray
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc)
Universal Soldier on Blu-ray
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Universal Soldier (Special Edition) on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Universal Soldier on DVD
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Universal Soldier on DVD