The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: LionsGate - 1992
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 102 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Alley Walker, Ed O'Ross, Jerry Orbach
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Music by: Christopher Franke
Written by: Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch, Dean Devlin
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 4, 2008
"The ultimate weapons of the future have just declared waron each other"
Luc Devreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are two soldiers who kill each other in Vietnam and are brought back to life 25 years later for a secret government program. Known as "Unisols," they are genetically enhanced, unstoppable killing machines without memory, feelings or free will. But when Devreaux's memory starts to return and he escapes the program, a superhuman chase across the country begins.
I can clearly remember the days when Jean-Claude Van Damme was the toast of all that was action. That seems like a long time ago now. Personally I was never a big fan but I didn't find the films of his that I saw objectionable. The first movie I saw Dolph Lundgren in was Rocky IV. He was physically imposing but I didn't find him particularly appealing onscreen. Apparently the impression held true because this review was only the second film that I have seen him and my opinion hasn't changed. I remember when this movie was in theaters and I had no desire to see it then. I guess I have been spoiled by some of the better action based films that I have seen. While I don't expect great acting performances I would prefer it if bad actors didn't overact. Both Lungren and Van Damme tried way too hard to add dramatic elements to their characters. The result was that their dialogue came off as cheesy and disingenuous. The story is built around two Vietnam Vets that kill one another years earlier whose bodies are recovered by the government. They are turned into mindless, genetically enhanced super soldiers who have no recollection of their past life. Deveraux (Vann Damme), begins to have flashbacks of the events that transpired just prior to his death. He sees Scott (Lundgren) as an adversary (because he remembers Scott shooting him) during an assignment and overrides his protocol by rescuing the intended target and escaping with her. To that point it wasn't bad but then it just goes south. Suddenly Scott begins have to recollections of his own about the past incident. He inexplicably begins a one man campaign to capture Deveraux and his female companion. Along the way there are plenty of explosions, gunplay, and of course Van Damme showing off his naked butt right in the lens of the camera. The climactic hand to hand battle is predictably corny but does include some laugh out loud lines delivered by Lundgren. I assume that it was meant to be humorous because if not it's a shame that someone wasted their time trying to make it anything else. Some action films are timeless but this isn't one of them as it felt very dated. I have to give credit where it is due though because this film does blow lots of stuff up and features enough gadgetry to keep buffs happy. It's hard to believe that this was the type of action film that moviegoers were serious about even back in the day.
The rating is for strong graphic violence, partial nudity, and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Universal Soldier comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 mbps.
The video quality was excellent as it boasts vibrant colors with rich tonal delineation and clean rendering. Images are crisply detailed with deep visual penetration and consistently definitive sharpness. Long range camera shots, such as those shot during the rescue at the dam, exhibited high level detail and vivid colors that were impressive. Contrast and black levels were spot on which gave dark and bright scenes good dynamic range with punchy whites and rich blacks. This was a great looking video presentation.
I applaud LionsGate for their continued support of lossless audio encodes on their Blu-ray disc releases. This film contains an active surround sound mix that makes use of the entire system. The soundtrack is showing its age as some of the effects sounded a bit dated. There was ample low frequency detail being sent to the subwoofer however bass response was slow and boomy rather than quick and tight. It lacked the low level resonance and room filling capability of today's digital soundtracks. Dynamic presence was quite good though as gunshots and explosions had plenty of snap. The surround channels were mixed too hot which made them too prominent within the sound field. I found this not only distracting but it interfered with dialogue intelligibility during certain segments. It also created a noticeable shift in the balance of the front and rear soundstages which impacted the integration of sounds moving through the room. This issue wasn't a problem during the entire film however it was notable and worth pointing out. I suspect that fans of the film will enjoy this presentation these minor issues notwithstanding.
- Out of the blue: Pop up trivia track
- Guns, genes, and fighting machines: Making of featurette
- Tale of two titans: Retrospective on the careers of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren
- Alternate ending
Universal soldier represents big budget action films of a bygone era that by today's standards feels somewhat dated. Its two stars suffer the same distinction but are warmly remembered by fans. LionsGate has delivered this catalog release title to high definition Blu-ray Disc featuring video quality that is worthy of praise and bonus content from the 2004 DVD release, that while not comprehensive, is still fan friendly. This disc is easily better than any current home video version and worth a double dip for current owners.
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