UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, what can I say? I don’t regret watching it. I say a discussion because I’m not really reviewing, I’m offering thoughts on the film. So here we go! SPOILER ALERT.
This is a throwback film, made in the 1992 that stars Jean Claude Van Damme. If you don’t know him, you should Google that up, because he was big in the 80s/early 90s action arena, but back on topic. The movie follows his character, Luc, a Vietnam soldier who finds a small village absolutely ransacked and on fire, and his commanding officer in a shack putting the finishing touches on his fabulous ear necklace. Yes, an ear necklace, and all the bodies with a missing ear make a whole lot more sense. I think totally distracted from his jaw structure, but whatever makes him happy, right? The sergeant has gone bonkers (obvi!) and is holding a young woman and boy hostage while he shows off his bling and mutters about how everybody is a traitor. They get into a scuffle over the hostages, with unfortunate results, and they end up killing each other.
The two of them are later cryogenically frozen and turned into cyborg soldier people with numbers as names. Let that sit for a moment.
Their memories are wiped, but you know how that goes – the memories always spring back up at the worst times and soon, Luc is on the run with a reporter who is trying to uncover the titular “Universal Soldier” program. While protecting her, he must repeatedly cool himself down because science says that the corpses require an extensive amount of heat to reanimate and thus need to be cooled to remain functional. So there was the obligatory Jean Claude Van Damme nudity scenes. I will say, there was no obligatory love scene between them. Explosions happen, fast driving, shooting, and evil Sergeant makes yet another ear necklace and terrifies people at a local grocery store once his memories kick in full swing and he starts a monologue on traitors.The customers are definitely NOT coming back.
The clinch of the movie finally arrives and there is an epic fight scene between Luc and the Sergeant, although the latter is hyped up on “muscle enhancers” and has an upper hand. But not for long because of course, the capsules fall into reach of Luc and then it’s an even more epic fight scene. I forgot what was happening with journalist lady. The Sergeant falls gracefully into a hay harvester and, well, you can imagine what happens there. Or maybe you don’t. This is a early 90s movie. Signal sentimental ending and triumphant credit music called “Body Count’s in the House.”
A person would watch this film for the action or for the love of JCVD, but the plot touches on the concept of time and memory, blending and replaying. The memories are triggered by events that mirror the ones of the past which then set off this explosive movie and the quest for identity. Sergeant’s identity remains in that tumultuous moment in the shack, hence his need for ear jewelry. Luc’s identity, however, lies in his childhood. He has flashes of being with his family as a child and mentions them throughout. He is trying to find that place in his life, essentially skipping over the event that landed him in his current cyborg-esque position. But that very well may be too deep of a reading. Scratch that, it is.
I had seen Van Damme movies in the past, but I believe I had missed this one. Bloodsport might be one of his more famous ones. Time Cop was good…and I did enjoy him in the Street Fighter movie even though that was a total disaster as a film itself. Mortal Kombat was a lot better on both fronts. Video games movies just don’t translate well for some reason, especially those that are fighter games. I mean, how many fights can you have and the movie still make sense? C’est la vie. Look him up. Although I’m definitely sure that some of the movie posters are using the same photo of him with a focused downward view of his face. Good stuff.
Recommended by Karen Herrera.