Universal Soldier


Who remembers Universal Soldier? No-one. Let me refresh your memory with the following review:

It is a sad fact of life that the majority of men are offensively puny dorks imprisoned within their own spindly bodies, like bluebottles wriggling in cowardly treacle. If such men feel the overpowering desire to harness themselves up to a juggernaut or a Boeing 747 and pull it along the awed tarmac, they are impotent to act upon it. If they come across an immense, dense boulder, and are compelled to lift it above their heads and, like Zeus in bovine form making love to a mortal woman, bellow thunderously in order to impress their bosses or their mothers-in-law, they cannot. No, the mass of men must content themselves with modest, unremarkable feats, such as tying their shoelaces, baking cakes and playing the theremin. Life is pretty pointless when you’re a weed. 

Dolph Lungren does not belong to this loathsome majority. His body is a power-cube that can be deployed to deadly effect, and often is. Three plump children could comfortably sit in the palm of his hand, such are its dimensions. Of course, no responsible mother would let her children, plump or otherwise, occupy such a perilous pew, lest Dolph suddenly fly into one of his beserker rages and crush them like peanuts (this actually happened once). Dolph Lungren is the only action hero whose Christian name and surname have been co-opted by the English language. To dolph is to plummet noisily onto one’s pectorals, whereas to lungren is to propel oneself through a watery mass using one’s pectorals. Both of these manoeuvres feature heavily in all of Dolph’s films. He is what, in the business, is termed a ‘tit actor’, to be distinguished, for example, from Mario Van Peebles, who is a ‘hamstring actor’.

In Universal Soldier Dolph effectively plays himself: a mechanised beefcake whose cold eye shoots out a red target light. He is a cannon of a man, doing the bidding of an iniquitous, largely undemocratic government. The first act of the film involves Dolph bouncing, in his signature top-heavy manner, from hut to hut in South America, neutralising little, moustachioed Zapatistas. In the second act he is visited by a muscly  angel who instructs him to change his ways. In the third act, he renounces violence, only to be assassinated by Stephen Seagal, an agent sent by his piqued taskmasters. In the final scene Dolph is in heaven, and his once-sinister red eye beam is now a seraphic yellow. He wrestles and tumbles benevolently with the other angels. The Universal Soldier is a now one of the Lord’s soldiers. It is in mildly bad taste.

As one might expect in a film such as this, the acting, script, plot, lighting, costumes, scenery, sound effects and score are negligible. But we do not watch action movies for any of those numerous things. We watch them to see people get splatted and gutted; we watch them to see people with impudent faces get thumped right in the beak; we watch them for the wild thrill of brawn on brawn collisions. Acting is for phoney men. Tit-acting is for the genuine article.


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