Universal Soldier

Dir: Roland Emmerich
Star: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker, Ed O'Ross

Neither Van Damme nor Lundgren are exactly known for their acting ability, so it's a bit of a master stroke to make them into soulless automatons, with barely a spark of humanity. Both are re-animated Vietnam vets, brought back to life and supercharged as part of a secret Pentagon project. One of them (Van Damme) suffers a twinge of conscience and saves the life of a reporter (Ross), then goes AWOL with her; the other (Lundgren) is sent after them, before deciding to continue the mission even when ordered to stop.

With the two leads so cheerfully wooden, it's up to Ross to try and bring humanity to the endeavour - unfortunately, she's almost entirely a failure. Luckily, while your heart may be left completely unmoved, the part of your brain that responds to things blowing up is likely to be very happy, with some excellent set pieces and mindless violence. I feel that for just about everyone connected to the project, this is where the bulk of their enthusiasm lay, and suspect they'd have been better off discarding any pretense otherwise. The time spent on emotion would have been much better off having Van Damme and Lundgren face off more than at the beginning and the end; when these sequences come, they are solid, very effective, and you realise what the 80 minutes in the middle could have been like...

Apr 2004

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