So, I’d heard some gentle rumours about a whole new Universal Soldier movie that featured the original stars, and I heard that it pissed all over Universal Soldier: The Return. I haven’t seen Unisol: TR in years and years, but I remember that it sucked various male body parts. But anyway, this new one didn’t suck at all. All this meant I audibly intoned the magic words that only get spoken when you read of something that reminds you of all the action movie fun you had as an adolescent: “Fuck, I gotta see this movie.”
So there is this super badass Unisol kicking around and kicking ass for a terrorist group that has taken up residence inside of the Chernobyl nuclear plant and wants to get up to some nefarious business. They employed a crack pot scientist hell bent on creating an army of super soldiers to do his bidding, but the terrorist leader wants none of it, he is happy to just get his shit done and leave it at that. Meanwhile Luc Devereaux is being rehabilitated in a house miles away, and is basically doing okay although he is still prone to kick the shit out of anyone who looks at him funny.
So after an anti-terrorism squad of like 50 dudes all get their collective asses handed to them by this one robo-guy (played by some UFC type with a steely eye and a stance that kills at 30 paces) the US military kidnap Luc and force him back into the fray to take down this one man threat to national security. On top of that, this mad science dude has another, altogether more secret, weapon in the shape of Andrew Scott.
Yeah, not only is Van Damme back, but so is Dolph. And I know what you are bellowing at the monitor right now, and no they do not address how the hell Andrew Scott is back after (spoiler alert) getting impaled in the first movie. Its probably a clone or something, a magic clone with selective memory kinda like Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. None of that matters though, because the real star here is director, John Hyams. Hyams is a name I am familiar with, but I have no idea why; I’ve perused his IMDb page and haven’t seen any of his previous features and have never paid too much attention to who directed which episodes of NYPD Blue, so its anyone’s guess why the heck I knew his name. I’m digressing.
Hyams has crafted a bleak and dark movie, which takes takes itself just seriously enough, and has almost no camp value (which is good, who wants camp action flicks? Not me, I’m a MAN). I have no idea what the budget for this movie was, but it is way more effective than last years I’d-rather-bang-my-head-on-a-brick-wall-a-thon Terminator Salvation from king of nothing, McG. Sure, some of the performances are hammier than pigs in a blanket, but don’t forget that this is a Universal Soldier movie. So getting better performances out of peripheral actors is something that herr director needs to work on, but as an action guy? This man is a future saviour, I can see him bringing some fresh meat and no veg to mainstream action in the very near future. Dolph and JCVD bust out the best performances I’ve seen from either of them, and share a cracker of a fight that ends is pretty much the best way you can imagine. Go on imagine it, I’ll wait.
The UFC guy (credited with his fighting name, Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski) was pretty great too, although he didn’t do much besides kick asses and stare wildly. But he did it well, you would believe that this guy is an Ultimate Fighting Part Robot Reanimated Corpse Man Champion.
Remember the ear necklace from the first movie? Well that doesn’t make an appearance but the gore sure does, tenfold. There is so much gore in here you’ll probably get a nosebleed, or a bumbleed, or an enjoyable viewing experience. My favourite scene is when Dolph, who is looking more and more like Viggo the Carpathian as he ages, goes postal. Check it out. Seriously.
Its not a perfect film by any stretch though. The editing tends to get a bit energetic in the fight scenes as if it just shotgunned four Red Bulls, which is no good. This isn’t a movie about wiry guys bobbing and weaving, these are big lumbering men laying full fisted thwacks onto each other with no precision but plenty of force, and so the quick cuts only serve to highlight the ineptitude of the fighting style. The plot got lost somewhere too, I couldn’t really follow what the heck was going down and when Luc sets off to rescue the teenagers, I barely even knew who those teens were. I had to spool it back to try and find some exposition that explained it, which is never fun. Turns out it was explained in the opening scene which was a whole lot of rewinding.
So a flawed but well put together film, and a sequel that surpasses the quality of the original to such an extent that it has probably lapped it twice over. I expect good things from John Hyams, and I expect better performances from Dolph and Van Damme now I know what they are capable of.
I originally scored this at 7/10 on my Facebook movies I’ve watched list, but I’m going to knock it down a touch after thinking through some more. I got this off a torrent but fear not studio types, as I will be buying this as soon as the DVD lands. You should too.
UPDATE – Alright guys, me again. I’m just adding an update to this because someone reminded me where I have heard the name Hyams before. John Hyams is obviously the son of Peter Hyams of 2010: The Year We Make Contact (hey, thats this year!), Sudden Death, Timecop, End Of Days and, one of my favourite guilty pleasures, Stay Tuned! So that clears that one up. Cheers for info Milf, you’re a good man.