Universal Soldier (1992)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Universal Soldier</strong> (1992)

(Second viewing, on TV, July 2018) I have dim memories of seeing Universal Soldier on VHS back in high school, and I particularly remembered the farm-set climax. I thought it was a below-average film then, and a second viewing doesn’t necessarily improve things. Jean-Claude van Damme is a gifted physical performer (and he was near the peak of his physical form in 1992), but his career was badly damaged by a string of second-tier, nearly undistinguishable action movies. Universal Soldier manages to be a bit more memorable than the others by dint of its science-fiction high concept, having a strong antagonist (Dolph Lundgren), featuring better-than-average action direction by Roland Emmerich, and starting with a great early sequence at the Hoover Dam. Still, it doesn’t really become anything but a generic action thriller in which two muscled guys beat each other up. A tepid romance doesn’t really distinguish itself despite Ally Walker’s attempts to bring some humanity back into a superhuman film. I may remember it now because I was around and part of the film’s target audience at the time, but I didn’t exactly love it then and I can barely even tolerate it now. I suspect that without its easy narrative hook, the film would have not led to any profile-raising sequels and would be long forgotten today. Who else but van Damme fans remember near-contemporaries Double Impact or Nowhere to Run? Exactly.

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