The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (1998)
I'm not sure why, but these two Universal Soldier made for The Movie Channel sequels are some of the most requested at the DTVC. I'd always kind of just stuck them aside, figuring I'd get to them eventually. Unfortunately, Netflix decided they were going to put my feet to the fire by letting me know that they were taking both movies off of Watch Instantly, and I knew I'd never bother getting them any other way if I didn't see them on Watch Instantly, so here we are, finally making them happen, starting with part 2.
Universal Soldier 2 picks up where part 1 left off, with Matt Bataglia as Luc Devereaux and Chandra West as Veronica the reporter. Gary Busey, who runs the UniSol program, is taking it private, hoping to sell the soldiers to the highest bidder. He's able to get Bataglia back by some homing device, but when Chandra West goes in after him, she saves his brother, played by Jeff Wincott, instead. Now the two brothers have to take Busey down before the UniSol technology winds up in the wrong hands.
I guess this was like a couple of episodes for a proposed TV show mushed together, a case of someone trying to make lemonade out of some lemons. Unfortunately we all ended up with burning eyes from the citric acid squirted into them that was this movie. There is virtually no action until the end. Even if it's two episodes of a TV show, episode one would've sucked for that alone. There's only so much "Luc Devereaux trying to be human" we can endure before we need it broken up with something else. Then you have a totally wasted Jeff Wincott, a sick martial artist who spends most of the movie strapped to a chair. Then you have to buy Matt Bataglia as the hero, which maybe you can do with more action, but the way this went like a human interest piece-- let's just say the whole thing was sautéed in wrong sauce.
I've read somewhere that Van Damme joked about how all his movies spawned sequels that starred actors other than him. Bloodsport had Daniel Bernhardt, Kickboxer had Sasha Mitchell; but what makes these two TV sequels to Universal Soldier different is that Matt Bataglia plays the actual character Van Damme played in the original. Something about that had to have upset Van Damme, because he felt the need to right the wrongs of these movies by rebooting them the same year the second one came out. Also, Van Damme was losing his box office relevance, so maybe he thought he could recapture that by reclaiming one of his more notable characters. Either way, all three movies turned out bad, and it was probably good that Van Damme took ten years before he revisited it. It would've been cool though to see what, if done well, a Universal Soldier syndicated TV show would've looked like. Put it on the Action Pack with Hercules.
Gary Busey as the main baddie is pretty sweet, but we expect that going in. Are there better ways to get your Busey fix? No doubt. But how many times have we seen Busey's name on the marquee only to find it's a bait-and-switch? Exactly, so at least here we know he's holding it down. I also really liked Chandra West as Ally Walker's character from the first one. Had this been turned into a TV show, it would've been her more than anyone else that people would've tuned into on a weekly basis, because she anchored any scene she was in with her wit and assertiveness-- let's just say Matt Bataglia would've looked a lot worse without her guiding him through their scenes.
I can only imagine Jeff Wincott signed on for this hoping he'd have regular work on a TV show, because this wasn't a good look for him. That's too bad, considering his character covered some uncharted Universal Soldier territory-- a UniSol that hadn't had his memory wiped, and was just dropped into the modern world after having been frozen since the late 50s. Why they didn't explore that more is beyond me. That would've made for much more effective padding. Also, Wincott could carry that kind of thing better. How can you not see Wincott as a hard-nosed soldier from the 50s interacting with late-90s America? Apparently the people who made it couldn't see that.
Finally, I want to talk about something that really irked me. (And no, I'm not talking about that tiny dude they tried to throw on us as Dolph Lundgren.) Near the end, West and Battaglia need to get their hands on transportation, so they steal the camper from a honeymooning couple while they're at a rest stop. Of course, the thing gets shot up and destroyed. What a shitty thing to do. Those are our heroes? Ruining a couple's honeymoon? Who writes crap like that? The bad guys are supposed to steal a honeymooning couple's camper, not the good guys.
I could go on, but I better wrap this up here. This is a painfest, mostly because nothing happens. We see too much of Battaglia riding on a train or Wincott strapped to a chair than we do good solid action. And as a story, this didn't cut it to be able to manage that long with nothing happening. Maybe I should've held out longer on these.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0186654/