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"Universal Soldier: The Return"

Directed by Mic Rodgers.
Written by William Malone and John Fasano.
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White and Goldberg.
Release Year:  1999 
Review Date:  8/26/99


First off--Wysocki: tell your wife I apologize, I forgot to bring her address home tonight!  Please forward to her again.

Also, recent SMR recruit Mike Nolan (no nickname) went to see "The Matrix" this week, and his excitement over what I am sure is now one of my favorite movies has gotten me excited again.  There won't be too many more chances for you to see "The Matrix" in theaters, but if you haven't seen it yet and are still on this mailing list, do us a favor and see this movie!

Well, as promised, I needed to see something that I knew would be, ahem, less than respectable, and once again, my boy Jean-Claude Van Damme delivers the goods!!  "Universal Soldier:  The Return" is the sequel to the Van Damme / Dolph Lundgren actioner from eons ago, and its storyline really doesn't have much to do with the first one--that is, if you think there actually was a story to the first one.  This time around, Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) must take on a renegade supercomputer that has taken over a scientific military base in Texas.  As you may remember, universal soldiers are basically dead former soldiers brought back to life by science to be superhuman fighting machines.  Somehow, in the first movie, Deveraux was killed in the line of duty, brought back to life, and then made whole again by doctors into a regular human being.  So, he *knows* what it takes to be a "unisol!"


The point is simple:  as Colonel Trautman ("Rambo" series) used to say, "Bring a lot of extra bodybags!"  This movie likes it gratuitous, and bodies are shot up, set on fire, hit with live grenades, electrocuted, and in a total ripoff of "Terminator 2" and "Demolition Man", carbon-frozen and shattered.  Not to mention that a lot of people get the shit kicked out of them, mostly by Van Damme, the supercomputer's human form Seth (Michael Jai White), and...GOLDBERG!!  It's been a great year for non-actors, and Goldberg brings home the goods here.  Speaking of gratuitous, THE most gratuitous scene of the summer exists in this movie:  Deveraux must get to a computer to check out something on the Internet, and since the military base's power has been taken out by Seth's gang, he drives off the base to...a strip club!  A FUCKING STRIP CLUB!!!  And when he goes up to use a computer in one of the offices of the club, there are two hookers there, sex-chatting to customers over the phone--so while Deveraux's on the information superhighway, you can hear the hookers in the background, saying things like "Oh yeah, baby, does that make you hard?"  This actually happens in this movie!

So, by this point, you must be asking, "So, was it bad or what?"  Schmoove actually told me three times that he just couldn't justify seeing a movie this bad, and all he had seen was the preview.  Let me turn that question on its head, then, and ask you this:  is a bad movie unwatchable?  See, I always say that the most fun I have at the movies is during the bad ones, and this one is no exception.  I invite you to watch Van Damme shout out some absolutely ridiculous lines, and man, when his boss dies early on in this movie, and he yells out "Dillon!  NO!!!", man I wish you had heard the laughter in the theater.  Or when Van Damme pulls off this running-over-lawn-chairs-"Matrix"esque-running-up-the-wall-360-degree-upside down kick, Colleen, Gordon and I were all laughing hysterically.  Or when the requisite trik shows up (in this movie, a TV reporter) and, although Van Damme and the trik initially hate each other, they slowly come to love each other in the span of just 85 movie minutes, you get to boo the screen with the 15 other theatergoers.  Or how four evil universal soldiers lay waste to a 1000-person Army Special Forces unit with simple machine gun fire...twice!!

So, was it bad?  Yes, but movies like "Wild Wild West" were much worse because not only was there no script, there was no fun to be had by the audience.  And, if you think that the preview for "Universal Soldier:  The Return" looked bad, man, you don't know SHIT, because we saw two previews tonight for movies that look 8-12 times worse than this movie.  The first was the Cuba Gooding, Jr. vehicle "Chill Factor", with post-Oscar Cuba playing--you guessed it!!--Loud, Screaming Black Guy in a movie that looks like "Fled" but won't be out as long.  (If you're asking yourself, "What the hell is 'Fled'?", then I've done my job here.)  And then, the crème de la crème:  a film by some production company called Independent Artists called "Simon Sez"...starring Dennis Rodman!  Please, I can only hope that you get to see this preview, because this movie has the potential to be worse than "Hard Vice", as many of you now know to be the worst film ever made.  Keep your eyes open!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09