Directed by Roland Emmerich
During the Vietnam War, a US Army team that is securing a village discovers that members of their squad as well as villagers have all been killed. They come to find that Sergeant Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) has gone insane. Pvt. Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude van Damme) confronts his sergeant and in the ensuing confrontation between the two, both are killed. Their bodies are recovered and frozen and they’re classified as MIA.
Fast forward to the then present day of 1992. There’s a hostage situation/terrorist situation at a dam. They’re there to get some of their comrades out of prison. The Universal Soldiers (or UniSols) are sent in to stop them. The resurrected Scott and Devereaux are among the soldiers sent in. They free the hostages but during the incident they see a few individuals that remind them of what happened back in Vietnam. Intrepid reporter Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker) shows up to the incident and because she’s late she loses her job. In an effort to get back her job, she and her cameraman follow the UniSols back to an airstrip. After sneaking on to the airstrip she discovers one that had been severely injured during the incident in a container filled with ice and he is still very much alive. Scott kills the cameraman but before he can kill Roberts, Devereaux steps in and they both escape. As more and more memories return for both it also brings up old hatred and a desire on the part of Scott to settle what happened back in Vietnam and get his revenge on Devereaux.
There’s not much in the way of acting here. Nor should you expect award winning acting. This movie is all about the fights, and the fight scenes are pretty good. But then again, you’d expect that from Lundgren and van Damme in this movie. At this point in their lives they were still in their physical prime. And van Damme especially was very near his career his career highpoint. At this point they were perfectly paired.
One thing that bothers me is the appearance of Jerry Orbach. Here he plays Dr. Christopher Gregor who is the scientist that developed the whole program. His character is kind of benevolent but really just serves as a source of mass exposition to keep the story moving rather than explain things during the course of the film. Gregor tells why Sergeant Scott is acting the way he is and why Devereaux just wants to go home. It seemed like Gregor was inserted during the course of production when they realized they had a story problem. They should’ve added a few mentions of his character earlier in the film. He’s like a surprise guest star.
What we have here I believe is the first pairing of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Emmerich and Devlin created a pretty good B movie for van Damme and Lundgren to star in. Emmerich and Devlin went on to produce some real gems in the films Stargate and Independence Day. Those stand out as science fiction classics.
Jean-Claude Van Damme was a big deal back in the day. This is one of his more cohesive efforts from then. Most of his movies back then were more like a series of action scenes strung together by a thin plot. Here the plot is strong and the execution of the story overall not bad. While still a B movie like most of his efforts, it’s a much better made B movie vehicle than most of his. Is it a great movie? No. Is it a good action movie? Yes. Watch it with a little bit of suspension of disbelief and you’ll enjoy yourself. The movie has its charms. There’s hammy acting and logic jumps galore but the chemistry of its stars facing off makes it all work. This was a powerhouse action pairing that is still good today.