Universal Soldier: The Return
Here's irony: an aging action star tries to revive his sagging career by
spawning a sequel to a flick about resurrected soldiers. The result is DOA.
This time out, Jean Claude Van Damme is a compassionate family man -- his
Unisol (brought-back-from-the-dead über-soldier) has become human and is
now a single father -- the wife has, of course, passed on. He's also an adviser
to the Army, which is building a new generation of Unisols. The genetically
enhanced units are cyber-linked to a HAL-like (as in 2001) computer
called SETH (Self Evolving Thought Helix). When SETH discovers that the
military wants to pull the plug on the project, he powers up the Unisols and
Van Damme gets his opportunity to play savior and kick some ass.
In the original 1992 actioner, the Muscles from Brussels had Dolph Lundgren's
nefarious robo-mercenary to contend with, and there was reasonable intrigue to
their atavistic game of cat-and-mouse. Here Van Damme is pitted against
cardboard baddies in the form of pro wrestling's Goldberg as the
Terminator-esque unit called Romeo and buffster Michael Jai White as the
physical incarnation of SETH. ESPN fitness babe Kiana Tom is on hand, and so is
Heidi Sanchez as the bland, pain-in-the-ass reporter turned love interest.
There's too much soap opera and kinder-gentler mumbo-jumbo for the picture's
own good, and when the bullets finally begin to rip, the pyrotechnics are
cheesy and the action is muddled and boorish. The film clicks only when Van
Damme and White square off in the "big" fight sequence. Besides that, the most
enthralling thing about Universal Soldier 2 is the horrifying spectacle
of Van Damme trying to intimate sensitivity.
-- Tom Meek