The gag is simple enough: in Vietnam, a GI (Jean-Claude Van Damme) stumbles across a massacre à la My Lai, and a crazed grunt (Dolph Lundgren) who’s responsible for it. They fight, and wind up killing each other. Years later, an “off-the-shelf” military science program revives them, and the fight is resumed.
Charlie Rose once asked the world’s most renowned expert on amateur film criticism, Roger Ebert, what’s the worst film ever made? Ebert said it would have to be Plan 9 from Outer Space. He liked Tim Burton’s film about Ed Wood, because he thought it captured the enthusiasm of the untalented to perfection.
But because, in spite of everything, as a charming author has said, Ed Wood was a bit of a genius, Tim Burton’s film is silly and Ebert is lost when it comes to this film, too. Emmerich has the genius to recognize the genius of Plan 9 from Outer Space, as Ken Wiederhorn may be said to have done in Shock Waves.
Universal Soldier’s perfect contempt for journalists, the polar opposite of, for example, The Green Berets, has been proven prophetic by recent events. The riotous performance by Dolph Lundgren is enlivened still further by placing him in a supermarket ranting about this dangerous world of ours.
The final scene is a version of the great I Spy episode written by Robert Culp, “Home to Judgement”, ultimately from The Night of the Hunter, with a tinge of Lord of the Flies.
Truly a great piece of satire, at a time when even the finest minds are at a pass when it comes to current events—and Universal Soldier is ten years ahead of the game.