The low-budget sequel Universal Soldier: The Return is a disappointing followup that seems more like a candidate for straight-to-DVD release rather than a theatrical run. Van Damme once again stars playing Lt. Luc Deveraux a former Universal Soldier or UniSol now a single father who trains the newer generations of automated warriors. The Return is also the completion of Van Damme’s seven-picture contract with Columbia Pictures which is the main reason this film ever saw the light of day. It’s a underproduced, shoddy affair that contains a few moments of interest but no brains. The plot concerns Deveraux and his battle with a supercomputer named S.E.T.H. (think HAL). Van Damme’s last big screen appearance is a sad send-off for one of the decades hardest working muscle-bound actors. In the course of nine years, the prolific big man released sixteen movies. All of which are superior to this one.
However, there is a certain level of B-movie fun in witnessing Jai White and Van Damme go head to head in a quasi-futurist scientific laboratory. Wrestling star Bill Goldberg makes a nice big screen debut as Romeo the most feared of all the UniSol units. He is a massive presence loaded with charisma and the film doesn’t have much use for him. He’s treated like Wily E. Coyote throughout the course of the movie he is run over, set afire, shot up and numerous other forms of destructive measures.
The director is a former stuntman which is appropriate because the only real thing the movie has going for it, is some decent stunt work. The opening action sequence involving a jet-ski chase on a deserted lake is a dead giveaway of the shoddiness to follow. Director Rodgers has no particular style and scenes begin/end with awkward transitions or jarring cut-aways. The worse thing about Universal Soldier: The Return is the overriding sense that the filmmakers just didn’t care about the product. Van Damme and his audience deserve better than this.
Director: Mic Rodgers
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bill Goldberg, Michael Jai White