Universal Soldier: The Return is a 1999 American science fiction action film directed by Mic Rodgers in his directorial debut, and written by William Malone and John Fasano.
The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Bill Goldberg, Heidi Schanz, Kiana Tom and Xander Berkeley.
It is the second theatrical film in the Universal Soldier series, preceded by two made-for-TV movies, Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business.
Subsequent films in the series ignore the events of The Return and contradict it in some places throughout the series; as such it is no longer considered part of the series’ canon.
It is the fourth film in the Universal Soldier Franchise.
Seven years after the events in the first film, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), now an ordinary human after having had his cybernetic implants removed, is a technical expert who is working for the US government with his partner Maggie (Kiana Tom), who has been through countless hours of combat training with him. They work to refine and perfect the UniSol programme in an effort to make a new, stronger breed of soldier that is more sophisticated and intelligent to reduce the use of normal, human soldiers in the battlefield. All of the new UniSols, which are faster and stronger than the original UniSols, are connected through an artificially intelligent computer system called S.E.T.H. (Self-Evolving Thought Helix).
When S.E.T.H. discovers that the Universal Soldier programme is scheduled to be shut down because of budget cuts, it takes action to protect itself. It unleashes a platoon of super soldiers, led by the musclebound Romeo (Bill Goldberg), to kill those who try to shut off its power, but spares Devereaux because he has a secret code that is needed to deactivate a built-in programme that will shut S.E.T.H. down in a matter of hours. With the help of Squid (Brent Hinkley), a rogue cyberpunk, S.E.T.H. is able to put itself in a UniSol made to be superior to any of the newer models (Michael Jai White). A team of four UniSols massacre most of the troops stationed outside the premises. Luc goes in later with a team of United States Army Rangers, but most of them are killed when a UniSol sentry sees them sneaking into the building.
Not only must Luc contend with ambitious reporter Erin Young (Heidi Schanz), who will not leave his side, but he must also contend with General Radford (Daniel von Bargen) who wants to take extreme measures to stop S.E.T.H., planting a time bomb in the facility. S.E.T.H. has sent Romeo to kidnap Luc’s injured 13-year-old daughter Hillary (Karis Paige Bryant), killing Maggie in the process.
Luc is the only person who can rescue Hillary, because Luc knows firsthand how a UniSol thinks, feels, and fights. Luc infiltrates the UniSol building again, but finds Maggie, now revived as one of the UniSols. S.E.T.H. has healed Hillary with UniSol technology, and when it figures out the code it decides to kill Luc and raise Hillary as a daughter. During the fight Luc covers S.E.T.H. in liquid nitrogen and then shatters S.E.T.H.’s frozen body. Luc and Hillary leave the lab and head towards the exit, but find Romeo waiting for Luc. Luc then engages into a final fight with Romeo, which ends when Maggie finally rebels against the UniSols by shooting Romeo, allowing Luc and Hillary to get out of the building before the bomb detonates. However, S.E.T.H. had deactivated the bomb, and Romeo and the other UniSols start to march out for battle. Luc fires at the explosive charge, blowing up the building, killing all UniSols and destroying their laboratory.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme.
- Michael Jai White.
- Kiana Tom.
- Daniel von Bargen.
- Bill Goldberg.
- Producer Craig Baumgarten had wanted to make a sequel for years but due to the bankruptcy of Carolco the rights were unavailable.
- The script was not originally written as a sequel but was adapted to fit into the series.
- Mic Rodgers was chosen as director based on his work in action films, he previously worked as stunt coordinator various films including Lethal Weapon, and was the second-unit director on Braveheart.
- This was Jean-Claude Van Damme’s last widely released film until 2012’s The Expendables 2.
- The film was received with negative reviews and was a box office bomb.
Universal Soldier Series
You can find a full index and overview of the Universal Soldier franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Mic Rodgers.
- Producer(s): Daniel Melnick, Michael I. Rachmil, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Allen Shapiro.
- Writer(s): William Malone and John Fasano.
- Music: Don Davis.
- Cinematography: Mike Benson.
- Editor(s): Peck Prior.
- Production: Long Road Entertainment, IndieProd Company Productions, and Baummgarten-Prophet Entertainment.
- Distributor(s): TriStar Pictures.
- Release Date: 20 August 1999.
- Running Time: 89 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.