Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)

Posted in Reviews by - October 20, 2012
Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)

Van Damme revisits the scene of his most popular picture in a last chance attempt to rekindle the same magic. This would prove to be his last theatrical release for a number of years, and the result is disappointing: cheap, clichéd and, although action packed, void of any genuine excitement. The patchwork story moves at breakneck speeds for short attention spans. Regenerated cyborg hero Luc returns in the even-more-distant future as the head of a Unisol plantation monitored by a master computer. Acquiring human form, S.E.T.H. (White) is a superior intellect and mighty fighter with intentions on world domination. But not if the cartoon violence of Van Damme can stop him…

Van Damme delivers a spirited performance, slightly comedic and letting his feet do most of the hard work. The finale with S.E.T.H. isn’t too bad, but the run-ins with wrestler Goldberg are particularly silly. Despite his first on-screen grey hairs, there is a sense that after a decade of playing stoic heroes, Van Damme has started to accept and exploit his own misgivings. It is this alternative approach which contrasts so clearly with the persona he brought to the 1992 original. At times, this sequel is almost irreverent: in one scene, Luc says “nobody wants to be a stereotype”. Who would have picked Van Damme for such self-deprecating irony?

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