Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme ("Luc Deveraux"), Dolph Lundgren ("Andrew Scott"), Ally Walker ("Veronica"), and Ed O'Ross ("Colonel Perry"). Rated R.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Artisan/Lions Gate)
Running time: 01:43:19
Playing on the personalities of both the level-headed, peaceful Luc (Van Damme) and the temperamental, nihilistic Andrew (Dolph), it isn't long before both of the lead Universal Soldiers resort back to their old ways and their memories slowly return to them. The two killing machines gradually become human again throughout the film, but only to a certain extent; enough to get a taste of what it was once like to be men and not, essentially, robots whose sole purpose is to serve the government officials and lab geeks who created them. Luc splits and teams up with a determined, nosy female reporter, Veronica, whose life he saves, and what basically ensues is an odd-couple Road Trip Movie with a few fight scenes, action set-pieces, and inherent fish-out-of-water comedy thrown in, as well as what seem like obligatory JCVD ass shots. Meanwhile, the military sends the rest of the UniSols to track down Luc, which is where Dolph Lundgren's character comes into play.
Playing Veronica is Ally Walker, who SONS OF ANARCHY fans will recognize from the first couple of seasons as the cunty Agent Stahl. Walker seems to have gotten better looking with age, because she was just kinda weird-looking back when this was made. She's great in this movie, though, and she's the perfect person to contrast Van Damme; she has a very sarcastic style when it comes to her line delivery, her comedic timing is good, and her many reactions to Luc's strange behavior and the general absurdity of the situations they find themselves in are classic. As for Van Damme and Dolph, they're both great, although I couldn't help but wonder how this movie would have turned out if the roles were reversed and it was Lundgren playing the protagonist and Van Damme the rogue, sadistic soldier. In any event, both actors - especially JCVD - are exploited for what they each bring to the table; Van Damme super-kicks a lot of people and Dolph looks imposing.
Having apparently never seen this before, I was inspired to watch this simply to try to make sense of the bizarre UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING and familiarize myself with the mythology of the Universal Soldiers themselves. What I basically did was watch the series backwards (except for the second one), ending with this particular film. Turns out that UNIVERSAL SOLDIER is pretty damn great and, arguably, a lot better than it has any right to be. It's paced well, it's super entertaining, it's satisfying in terms of both action and comedy, and it's surprisingly well-written and well-structured. The human, emotional element that comes with the territory of films dealing with the "Playing God" theme is fleshed out really well, and I absolutely love how the movie comes full circle and what it ultimately says about mortality. The only real complaint I have is that there's not as much hand-to-hand combat as I was hoping for (disappointing considering both Van Damme and Dolph's backgrounds in Martial Arts).