Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) 88 Films Blu-ray Review
For JCVD Completists Only
Universal Soldier: The Return was a disappointing sequel to the original but it still has plenty of action and a short runtime making it an easy watch. If you’re a fan of the film and have a multi-region (or are based in the UK) Blu-ray player then it’s worth picking up.
Plot:Luc Deveraux is no longer a Universal Soldier. But he still has battles to fight…
Jean-Claude Van Damme reprises one of the roles that made him a superstar in a film that’s even bigger and more thrilling than the first instalment (no it isn’t): a super-powerful computer has taken control of the Uni-Sol programme and is building an army of its own. Only Deveraux can pull the plug – but he’s got a fight on his hands.
Review: I sometimes forget this movie exists and it’s not one I watch often but I still picked up the 88 Films Blu-ray of Universal Soldier: The Return when I was in the UK last week.
As much as I love JCVD and the original 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 dialogue is cringe worthy lacking the iconic one-liners of the first film.
The whole atmosphere created in the original movie is lost and the tone is generally too light; with the first movie even though there was humour Dolph Lundgren was still an intimidating presence but this movie seems to lack a decent sense of threat.
At 82 minutes it is at least well-paced and packed with action and Jean-Claude Van Damme shows some of his old charm. The reporter character Erin (Heidi Schanz) is mildly annoying and felt unnecessary as we already had a similar character in the first movie.
There is a lot of nudity in this movie which gets an extra star in its favour as every good action picture needs a gratuitous stripclub scene in it.
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.
Don Davis’ score was pretty forgettable, but did the job in providing some atmosphere even if it does sound a little keyboardy at times.
There are plenty of awesome explosions here and the film is harmless entertainment with the final fight between Van Damme and Michael Jai White enjoyable but once again not as epic as the Dolph vs. JCVD battle at the end of the first film.
[Strictly Limited to 3000 Units] (no standard edition repress to follow)
[ Booklet Notes – Been There, Done That? by Dom O’Brien]
HD Transfer in Original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Optional English Subtitles
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
[new] Audio Commentary from game historian and game producer Audi Sorlie and sports writer Chris Ling
[new] Audio Commentary by Film Journalists Dave Wain and Matty Budrewicz
‘Making Of’ Featurette
‘A Universal Soldier’s Workout’ Featurette
‘Looking Back – Moving Forward’ Documentary
The audio commentaries are the only new special features and if you’ve got any other Van Damme movies from 88 Films you’ll recognise the Looking Back – Moving Forward Documentary. The brief Making Of Featurette is around 4 minutes and isn’t anything special.
Overall, Universal Soldier: The Return is well paced and packed with action but it’s quite forgettable and the script isn’t the greatest either. 88 Films have remastered the film so it has impressive audio and looks great but there aren’t that many new special features to make it worth adding to the collection unless you’re a JCVD completist like me.