Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) 20 Years Later

Plot: After being brought back from the dead as a genetically enhanced warrior, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is now fully human and working with scientist Dylan Cotner (Xander Berkeley) to create a new, safer breed of fighters. When Cotner’s project loses its funding, his supercomputer, the sentient SETH (Michael Jai White), is scheduled to be turned off. Alarmed, SETH takes over a human body to defend itself. To prevent the machine from destroying mankind, Luc must fight back.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Universal Soldier: The Return so I thought I’d give it a quick revisit to see if it is any better than I remember… in short, no it is not. As much as I love JCVD and Universal Soldier this was sadly a very disappointing sequel. It has some entertaining action scenes and the added bonus of Michael Jai White who steals the show as the villainous SETH but some of the acting and dialogue are so bad that it really takes away a lot of enjoyment.

The whole atmosphere created in the original movie is lost and this one just feels like a cheap cash grab. For one thing, I really miss Dolph Lundgren who was such a great foil for Van Damme in the first movie and was wisely brought back in Regeneration and Day of Reckoning.

It is at least well paced and like I said has plenty of action with Jean-Claude Van Damme showing a bit of personality which has been sorely lacking in his recent fare.

I remember seeing The Return in the cinema and feeling rather excited about a new Uni Sol film, then after about 15 minutes my heart sank and realised this was not going to live up to the original.

Bill Goldberg certainly had the presence and size to be a formidable opponent and also uses some of his signature wrestling movies but it would have been far cooler if Steve Austin was in the role instead which he was supposed to do. According to IMDB without notifying Steve, his agent turned down the offer of $55,000 to star in the film. The role was subsequently offered to WCW star Bill Goldberg, who accepted the role, for a fee of $250,000. When Austin found out about this, he expressed his anger to Vince McMahon for not letting him know about the movie offer.

The role of Romeo wasn’t all that interesting anyway so Austin didn’t really miss much as he basically just growls his way through the movie and beats people up.

Don Davis’ score was pretty forgettable, but did the job in providing some atmosphere; there’s some nice electric guitar moments which is also a bonus.

There was a rather impressive explosion about halfway through which was arguably the action highlight of the film. The final fight between JCVD and Michael Jai White is also pretty decent but it’s a shame MJW hasn’t been brought back in any of the subsequent sequels as it would be cool to see a rematch.

Overall, after 20 years The Return has its moments but it’s not a film I have or ever will love so it’s hard to recommend unless you are a die hard JCVD fan.