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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/20/00

Universal Soldier: The Return
1999 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

Universal Soldier: The Return Film Rating (on the Van Damme scale): B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B-/B+

Specs and Features

83 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, "making-of" featurette, Jean-Claude Van Damme Columbia title retrospective - Looking Back, Moving Forward, A Universal Soldier's Workout featuring Michael Jai White, 6 theatrical trailers (for Universal Soldier: The Return, Double Team, Desert Heat, Knock Off, Maximum Risk and Nowhere To Run), cast and crew bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"Sir... there's a little girl out there."

The man with the killer spinning kick is back, and a lot of people seem pretty pissed at him. This sequel to Universal Soldier takes place quite a few years after the end of the last film, and Van Damme is now a reformed UniSol working for the continuing project as a consultant. The plot is on the typical side. The government runs out of money and has to shut the project down. The super computer brain behind the project (code named S.E.T.H., whose voice and human shape is played by Michael Jai White) won't hear of it, and orders the new generation of UniSols to attack. Things go from bad to worse quickly, and it's up to Van Damme to kick everyone in the head and bring S.E.T.H. down.

As sequels go this one isn't bad. The action thread is simple - Van Damme has a code that can shut S.E.T.H. down, and the computer will do anything to get it to stay alive. It's a sort of brainless Blade Runner (which is the first thought that pops into my mind). The film contains some great fights and ample stunts and explosions, with only a little bit of dialogue. Van Damme says it best in the making of featurette, "It's a rollercoast(er)." It moves quickly and before you know it, it's over. WCW's Bill Goldberg makes a serviceable appearance as an indestructible UniSol named Romeo, who takes a licking but keeps on spouting one-liners. If you have the time and like Van Damme, this one won't upset the fans.

The video on this one is pretty good - not outstanding but okay. The picture looks a bit dark, and there's more that an average amount of apparent grain. The video is 16x9, which is nice, but it surprisingly doesn't help the picture when blown up. The sound is also pretty good, but not great. The music (and there is a lot of hard core band music) sounds good, but the effects mix pushes it all up front, with only a little surround work. The bass is nice though - when there is an explosion, you will be picking stuff up off the floor. There are also a few nice extras for the fans. There's a piece on the diet and exercise regimen for Michael Jai White during filming, a don't-look-back-in-anger documentary about Van Damme's career at Columbia TriStar (he's reflecting on all of his films and some of the times in his life in-between). Buffing that out is a nice collection of trailers for those films. Top those off with some cast and crew bios, and you have a nice little package for an okay little action film.

You can't go wrong with Van Damme, especially when Megadeth provides the credit song. If you like Van Damage as much as we do, then check this disc out. It's a real kick.

Todd Doogan
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Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

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