Universal Soldier: The Return

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Universal Soldier: The Return
Original 1999 theatrical poster
Directed byMic Rodgers
Produced byDaniel Melnick
Michael I. Rachmil
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Allen Shapiro
Written byWilliam Malone
John Fasano
Based onCharacters created by
Richard Rothstein
Christopher Leitch
and Dean Devlin
Music byDon Davis
CinematographyMike Benson
Edited byPeck Prior
Long Road Entertainment
IndieProd Company Productions
Baummgarten-Prophet Entertainment
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • August 20, 1999 (1999-08-20)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40-45 million[1][2]
Box office$10.7 million[2][3]

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. The film was released in the United States on August 20, 1999. This was Jean-Claude Van Damme's last widely released film until 2012's The Expendables 2.

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.[4] The film was received with negative reviews and was a box office bomb. 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.


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 program 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 program 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 program 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.


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.[1]


Filming took place at the abandoned Super Collider in Texas, for three months during the winter.[1]


Box office[edit]

The movie did poorly at the box office debuting at #4.[5] Universal Soldier: The Return grossed over $10 million in the United States.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews were mostly negative. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 5% rating based on reviews from 58 critics, with an average rating of 2.7/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Universal Soldier: The Return fails on almost every level, from its generic story to its second rate action and subpar performances."[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 24 out of 100 based on reviews from 14 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C-" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

James Berardinelli gave the film a score of one and a half stars out of four and remarked, "Some of the explosions are cool. There's an exploitatively entertaining sequence in a strip joint that features a bevy of topless women. Still, despite all the pyrotechnics, I almost dozed off twice."[9] Joe Leydon of Variety magazine called it "an underwhelming follow-up to one of the career-stalled action star's better efforts."[10] Paul Malcolm, of L.A. Weekly described the film as "a mind-numbing exercise in body counts and big tits."[11]

Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote a mixed review, saying the film "Has a shameless B-movie exuberance" and that it "is nothing for anyone to be proud of, on either side of the screen, but it's a lively 90 minutes.[12] Kevin Thomas of The Los Angeles Times called it a satisfying sequel, and wrote "This is one "return" that's surely welcome."[4]


A film soundtrack was released by Trauma.

  1. "Crush 'Em" – Megadeth
  2. "Remain Calm" – One Minute Silence
  3. "Awake" – Clay People
  4. "Crazy Train" – The Flys
  5. "Bled For Days" – Static-X
  6. "Fueled" – Anthrax
  7. "Majic, No. 3" – Jact
  8. "Hatred" – D Generation
  9. "Securitron (Police State 2000)" – Fear Factory
  10. "Eureka Pile" – Ministry
  11. "Chaos" – Tim Skold
  12. "Saddam A-Go-Go" – Gwar
  13. "Target: Devereux" – Don Davis
  14. "Supernova Goes Pop" – Powerman 5000

Home media[edit]

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on December 28, 1999, and also Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 1 July 2002, it was distributed by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. On 4 October 2010, Universal Soldier Trilogy DVD was released. On 11 February 2013, Universal Soldier Quadrilogy Box Set was released.

In 2012, as part of a distribution deal with Sony, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released the film as part of a Jean-Claude Van Damme themed Hollywood Hits set along with Knock Off, The Hard Corps and, Second in Command.[13]

In 2013, a second Blu-ray of the film was released, again by Mill Creek Entertainment, as a double feature with Second in Command.[14]

The film has since been featured in various action film compilations from Mill Creek Entertainment.


  1. ^ a b c Jon Keeyes. "Universal Soldier 2". Cinefantastique. pp. 16–21 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b "Universal Soldier: The Return". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Universal Soldier II: The Return". The Numbers. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b Kevin Thomas (August 23, 1999). "Van Damme in Engaging Battle in Sleek 'Universal Soldier' Sequel". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  5. ^ RICHARD NATALE (1999-08-23). "As 'Sixth Sense' Sizzles, Newcomers Feel a Chill". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  6. ^ "Universal Soldier: The Return". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Universal Soldier: The Return" – via www.metacritic.com.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore.
  9. ^ Universal Soldier: The Return Review by James Berardinelli
  10. ^ Joe Leydon (August 23, 1999). "Universal Soldier: The Return". Variety. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  11. ^ Paul Malcolm. "Universal Soldier: The Return". Archived from the original on 2001-05-02.
  12. ^ LaSalle, Mick; Critic, Chronicle Staff (August 21, 1999). "Van Damme's `Return' Has Just Enough Kick". SFGate.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 15, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]