Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Universal Soldier III

A great many of you may not be aware of just how many films technically exist in the Universal Soldier series.  Sure, there's the Van Damme original, the revamp featuring Goldberg (good times) and the disappointingly-dull Universal Soldier: Regeneration.  Yeah, I said it!  If you want to promise me a Van Damme/Lundgren rematch, try making it not suck and only last five minutes- tops!  Anyways, the point of all this is to remind you of the two made-for-television sequels to the film.  There's a reason that they didn't make the latter sequels numerical, after all.  The first film was reviewed back in early January, so let me refresh you.  Luc Deveraux is on the run with the reporter, but finds that the Uni-Sol program won't give up on him.  He got recaptured and only managed to get free due to the ministrations of the reporter and his recently-not-dead brother.  Yeah, he's so important that he dies in the same story that he's introduced.  Our heroes kill an arms dealer (Gary Busey), but don't get to the real villain: Burt Reynolds!  So how can we top the sheer made-for-TV mediocrity of that film?  Get out your magic, healing spray for my review of...

The film begins with about five minutes of explanation of the last film.  You're too late- I already did that!  The funny part is that they put up a little note about the clips being from Universal Soldier II.  Did you think that your audience was so dumb that they would be confused by your exposition clips?!?  Damn, that's insulting!  Our heroes are still on the run, so they do what all of those anti-war hippies did in the 1970s- they go to Canada.  That makes sense, considering you clearly shot all of the movie there anyways.  They go off to see a reporter friend of our heroine at a big, public event.  Yeah, that seems safe.  Thanks for breaking the fourth wall by having a clown address the camera, despite it not being the point-of-view of a person.  The woman goes inside- despite being a fugitive- but this doesn't alert any of the guards or security in the area.  Get used to them being inefficient in this movie!  Right away, the man recognizes her, but makes sure that his cameraman does not film her.  While they chat, terrorists decide to take over the place, since it's full of dot com billionaires.  Oh good, take the money that they're just going to lose in a few years anyways!  This group of three people take over the place, extorting $5 million from each captive, as well as $110 million from the government.  Looks like our action hero has to save the day!
In the building, the group gives the reporter a card of their demands to read on the air.  Naturally, the cops assume that she is one of the gang...for some reason.  Man, the Canadians really are only good at hockey, providing cheap filming locations and nationalized medicine!  Once the hostage situation occurs, Luc gets into the building by...just walking past some guards.  Really?  He gets inside, takes the uniform of a bus boy and...gets caught by the bad guys.  Wow, you suck.  He proves me wrong by quickly killing two of the three men, one of whom is killed after Luc 'no-sells' a shoulder-stabbing.  The leader- a black woman- tries to hold the woman hostage, only to get the same knife from earlier in her head.  After this, the pair walking out the back.  To be fair, they just imply their escape via a wipe- which is much stupider.  During all of this, we get some random mentions of the German government paying reparations to some Jews that survived the Holocaust.  Horribly-tacky writing or a plot point- you decide.  Back at the old Uni-Sol base, the trio of would-be terrorists are used as new initiates in the program.  What happened to just using dead soldiers, guys?  One of them doesn't take to the program, tries to escape with a gun...only to get incinerated by the scientists.  Oh yeah, they're also raising a clone soldier too.

As it turns out, the Uni-Sol leader (Reynolds)- whose also the Deputy Director of the CIA- plans to steal the millions in gold being shipped in by the Germans.  Stealing Nazi gold- how ironic!  Our heroes continue to try and get to the bottom of the Uni-Sol program, but tragedy strikes.  Reynolds has our Luc's parents  That's right, this tragic moment is brought you off-screen and merely talked about as fact- lame.  They finally track down one of the old Uni-Sol scientists and find out that his brain was wiped.  We learn that Uni-Sol has sleeper agents, right before the new recruits show up guns-blazing.  A big shoot-out ensues, although they find time for a pun based on a man with a hook for the hand.  No, really.  Our heroes find a near-dead Uni-Sol recruit under their car and save him, turning him into an ally for them.  This plot point comes out of nowhere and barely amounts to anything.  Are you still surprised?  The group stops most of the soldiers and Luc finds time to face-off with the clone soldier.  That soldier is...his brother.  Dun dun obvious!  He resists his programming and dies from an explosive planted in his chest.  Luc confronts Reynolds in a parking garage and tricks him into confessing on-tape.  He takes this well and jumps to his death.  So, nothing was resolved then?  In a bit of sequel bait, the Uni-Sol program activates all of its sleeper agents, including an off-screen Bill Clinton.  Ha ha.

This thing is...really not much to speak about.  For starters, the plot is silly, unfocused and kind of just there.  An evil CIA director is plotting to steal Nazi gold meant for the Jews in order to fund his secret, super-soldier program.  This sounds hilarious, but is played incredibly-dry.  Reynolds is the only one who seems aware of how silly this whole thing is, so he phones is performance in quite fierce.  Half of his scenes are just him on the phone and the other half are barely more than two minutes long at a time.  Hell, he's billed as a Guest Appearance, the same billing given to the guy playing Luc's brother.  That guy appears in two scenes and has approximately six minutes of screen time.  Oddly, a film with such a silly plot relies on so much pointless filler.  Is the whole Canada excursion necessary?  Was the death of Luc's parents a really important thing, especially considering that they don't even show it?  Note to producers: it worked for Star Wars, but it won't work for you!  How is the acting?  It's Universal Soldier III- what do you think?!?  The whole thing is just not as fun as you would think, which is par for the course for the series.  Seriously, what was the point of Universal Soldier: Regeneration, when Van Damme was in maybe 25 minutes?!?  Aargh!
Up next, a Full Moon film delivers on zero of its promised plot points and just out-right lies.  Can a movie involving a cyborg, terrorists and voodoo be boring?  Stay tuned...

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