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Action fans, if you like completely mindless fun, then UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN ($25) may just be the movie for you. As the eighty-three minute running time would indicate, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN provides just enough plot to take the characters from action sequence to the next. Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the role of Luc Devereaux, the character he portrayed in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, who just happened to be one of the original Unisols or Universal Soldiers. Unisols were created by applying a lot of high tech science to the bodies of dead soldiers- thus turning them into unstoppable fighting machines.

After being brought back to life, and surviving the ordeal or the first film, the doctors were able to reverse the process, turning Luc back into a normal, living human being. Strangely, Luc now works for the military agency that turned him into a Unisol, and serves as one of the project's leaders. Things spin out of control at Unisol project headquarters when SETH, the supercomputer that controls the Unisols, discovers that the government is shutting down the Universal Soldier program. Unwilling to allow his own termination, the SETH computer system takes control of the government installation with the help of the Unisols under its controls. However, taking over the facility is just a delaying tactic that allows SETH enough time to transfer its consciousness into the body of a prototype Super-Unisol. Once transferred into his new body, SETH sees himself as the next step in human evolution and plans a bit of natural selection to weed out the obsolete form of humanity.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is basically a series of confrontations between former Universal Soldier Luc Devereaux and the current crop of Unisols. This of course, leads to the inevitable showdown between Luc and SETH. The cast of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN includes Michael Jai White, Heidi Schanz, Xander Berkeley, Justin Lazard, Kiana Tom, Daniel von Bargen, James Black, Karis Paige Bryant and Bill Goldberg. By the way, since I switched my thinking cap off for this flick, this mindless reviewer gives the gratuitous fight scene in the strip club a big thumbs up.

Columbia TriStar Home Video does their usual terrific job with their DVD edition of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN. Both full screen and wide screen presentations are provided on opposite sided of the DVD. In wide screen UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is framed at 1.85:1 and the presentation contains the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The image is sharp, clear and practically perfect. Hey, don't all mindless action movies turn out to be great looking DVDs? Colors are strongly saturated and there is no evidence of chroma noise or bleeding. Flesh tones are as healthy as any Hollywood makeup department can make them look. Blacks are deep, coal black and the image offers relatively smooth contrast. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack delivers the requisite big, loud action movie mix. The mix makes very good use of all the discrete channels, keeping sound effects bouncing around the soundstage. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced (as if it mattered) and not buried under all the other sounds. Bass reproduction is suitably powerful, adding weight to gunfire, explosions and crashes. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also provided on the DVD, as are English subtitles.

The interactive menus are fairly standard, providing access to the scene selection and set up features, as well as the disc's extras. Extras include a Jean-Claude Van Damme promotional featurette, highlighting his other films that have been released by Columbia TriStar Home Video. Another short featurette is A Universal Soldier's Workout with Michael Jai White. As the name implies, it shows the actor working out on the set to get ready for his role of the ultimate Unisol. The DVD also includes a traditional Making-Of featurette, talent files and theatrical trailers.




DVD reviews are Copyright 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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