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Roland Emmerich’s Universal Soldier

Universal Soldier

Universal Soldier

Universal Soldier, USA 1992. Directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch, and Dean Devlin.

CineStar Theater 5, Row 3, Seats 8. Remastered & uncut original version.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

Finally, I erased an ancient blemish from my polished track record! I was in Germany when Universal Soldier was released, a bad place for movies back then, just like it was a bad place for games in the 2000s. The original version didn’t run anywhere. Ten years later, I’d heard from friends who saw the dubbed version in 1992 that it had been cut beyond belief, and that the original version was »indiziert« in Germany, which explained it.

Now, yesterday, I watched a perfectly remastered and uncut version at the theater. Of course it’s a crappy movie! But it has its charms and solid action, and it’s eminently enjoyable. Sure, the screenplay went on a shopping spree for motifs from Platoon, Jacob’s Ladder, The Terminator (the first), RoboCop, Near Dark, The Hitcher, and even—in a well-staged scene, actually—The Blues Brothers! But it had one good idea, namely reanimated super soldiers, which became an instant media staple right after forever. At $23m, it wasn’t cheap (1984’s Terminator was $6.4m), but it wasn’t expensive either (1991’s T2:JD was $100m), and it did well at the box office.

As to the acting, well. Everybody did a decent job, given the script—Van Damme the sad puppy, Lundgren the deranged psychopath, and Walker the clever journalist. (Walker would later star in the Profiler TV series, all four seasons of which I watched on NBC back in the days, loving it to death.)

True to the 1990s, smoking is a recurring theme and a bad thing, and the script’s riddled with funny one-liners of uneven quality. (Remember, as Joe taught his partner in 1991’s Last Boy Scout, that “in the ’90s, you don’t just smack a guy in the face, you say something cool first.”)

Finally, a (slightly defused) version of Body Count’s/Ice-T’s immortal “Body Count’s in the House” plays over the credits, which makes the movie complete.

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