The Curator of Schlock #272 by Jeff Shuster

Universal Soldier

Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Dolph Lundgren. What more could you possibly want? A good movie?

It looks like Disney has unveiled their full slate of movies until the year 2027. We’re getting a new Star Wars trilogy. Yay. Maybe this new trilogy won’t feature any characters drinking blue milk from the udders of a sea lion. We’ll be getting some good cuts of meat from the slaughtered carcass of 21st Century Fox. Among them are three Avatar sequels and remake of West Side Story?


And I see a bunch of movies described as UNITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION. Well, one of those untitled movies had better be TRON 3.


Get your shit together, Disney.


This week’s Van Damme feature is 1992’s Universal Soldier from director Roland Emmerich. I had avoided seeing this movie all these years. Keep in mind that I was young lad raised on those testosterone-fueled cinematic gems of the 1980s, those R-rated masterpieces that every boy in elementary school watched whether his parents allowed him to or not. The big stars were Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the time, I was more of an Arnold fan, but I watched films by both these action star titans.


And then you had the lesser tier action stars, your Jean-Claude Van Damme and your Dolph Lundgren. But I never had anything against Dolph Lundgren. He was great as the villain in Rocky IV and I Come In Peace was a fun movie. I wasn’t a big Van Damme fan at the time, but covering his movies these past few years has revealed an action star with real screen presence. So I kept my fingers crossed as I streamed Universal Soldier off of Amazon, wondering if my younger self had been wrong to skip this one back in the day. He wasn’t wrong.

Universal Soldier is terrible. I mean it’s really bad. It’s a bad movie. I’m sorry. No. I don’t want to hear that it’s not that bad. It is that bad. Why is it bad? Because it is! Okay. I have to strengthen my argument. Universal Soldier begins in 1969 during the Vietnam War. Dolph Lundgren plays Sergeant Andrew Scott, a crazed soldier who likes to cut the ears from the heads of civilians. I’m not kidding. He even strings them up and wears them like a necklace. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Luc Deveraux, a good American soldier that doesn’t want to kill civilians. How do they explain the French accent? He’s from Louisiana of course.


Anyway, Scott and Deveraux end up killing each other because Deveraux refuses to shoot a couple of Vietnamese women in the head. They’re put in body bags, but that’s not the end of the story. In 1992, the United States government unveils its Universal Soldier program: a team of elite super soldiers reanimated from the corpses of dead soldiers and programmed to obey with the use of chemicals. You can plug them full of holes and they’ll regenerate. The whole movie is trying to go for the Terminator vibe while also trying to assure the audience that it’s its own movie.


Anyway, Deveraux and Scott gain back some of their memories. Deveraux goes on the lamb with a plucky reporter played by Ally Walker. The government keeps trying to track him down, shooting up diners and motels as Deveraux and the reporter make escape after escape. You get to see the bare bum of Jean-Claude Van Damme if that’s your thing. You also get to see Jean Claude Van-Damme eat a bunch of steak dinners and beat up some rednecks if that’s your thing. The final fight between Scott and Deveraux takes place on the Deveraux family farm at night, something more fitting for a thriller like The Boy Next Door rather than a high-octane action movie.

I wasn’t feeling this one.

I’m sorry.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.