Universal Soldier (1992 film)

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Universal Soldier
Universal soldier ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by
Written by
Music by Christopher Franke
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Michael J. Duthie
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
  • July 10, 1992 (1992-07-10)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million[2][3]
Box office $36.3 million[4]

Universal Soldier is a 1992 American science fiction action film directed by Roland Emmerich. It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as soldiers who kill each other in Vietnam but are reanimated in a secret Army project along with a large group of other previously dead soldiers.


In 1969, a U.S. Army Special Forces team receives orders to secure a village against North Vietnamese forces. Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) discovers members of his squad and various villagers dead, all with their ears removed. Deveraux finds his leader Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who has gone insane, with a string of severed ears and holding a young boy and girl hostage. Devereaux, who is near the end of his tour of duty, tries to reason with Scott, who shoots the boy and orders Devereaux to shoot the girl to prove his loyalty. Deveraux refuses and tries to save the girl, but Scott kills her with a grenade. The two soldiers shoot each other to death. Deveraux and Scott's corpses are recovered by a second squad and cryo-genically frozen, their deaths covered up as "missing in action".

Deveraux and Scott are revived without memories of their previous lives and are selected for the "Universal Soldier" program, an elite counter terrorism unit, and are deployed via an Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy to the Hoover Dam to resolve a hostage situation. Devereaux uses efficient means to dispatch terrorists, but Scott uses excessive force, which causes concern among the project technicians. The team demonstrates their superior training and physical abilities against the terrorists, such as when GR76 (Ralf Möller) withstands close-range rifle fire. After the area is secured, Devereaux begins to regain patches of memory from his former life upon seeing two hostages who strongly resemble the villagers he tried to save in Vietnam, causing him to ignore commands from the control team and become unresponsive.

In the mobile command center, it is revealed that the UniSols are genetically augmented soldiers with enhanced healing abilities and superior strength, but also have a tendency to overheat and shut down. They are given a neural serum to keep their minds susceptible and their previous memories suppressed. As a result of the glitch, Woodward (Leon Rippy), one of the technicians on the project, feels it may be better to remove Devereaux from the team until he can be further analyzed, but UniSol commander Colonel Perry (Ed O'Ross) refuses. TV journalist Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker), who was fired while covering the Hoover Dam incident, tries to get a story on the UniSol project in order to get her job back. Roberts sneaks onto the base with a cameraman, discovering GR76 immersed in ice, still alive despite normally-fatal injuries.

When her presence is noticed, Devereaux and Scott are ordered to capture her. She flees to her cameraman's car, but they crash. Scott coldly executes the cameraman against orders, before Devereaux stops him from shooting Roberts. Together, Devereaux and Roberts escape in a UniSol vehicle. Colonel Perry insists on preventing knowledge of the UniSols getting out, not only to the public, but to the Pentagon, which does not know the true nature of the project. Devereaux and Roberts flee to a motel, where Roberts discovers she has been framed for the murder of her cameraman. Scott's previously insane personality begins to emerge, causing him to kill Perry and the technicians. Scott then takes command of the UniSol team, ordering them to find and kill Devereaux and Roberts.

Devereaux continues to rebuild his memory while Roberts tries to find more information about the UniSol program. They step into a greasy spoon diner in the middle of the desert, and at some point Devereaux finds himself alone there and starts ordering and devouring plate after plate of food, until the waitress there asks how he's going to pay for all of it. When Devereaux looks blankly at her, she calls out Hank, the cook, who threatens to harm him for being a deadbeat, but Devereaux, though innocently saying he doesn't want to hurt him, easily beats him and every single patron who steps up to him.

They meet Dr. Christopher Gregor (Jerry Orbach), the creator of the program, who informs them that the UniSol project was started in the 1960s in order to develop the perfect soldier. Although they were able to reanimate dead humans, they were never able to overcome the body's need for constant cooling. The other major problem is that memories of the last moments of life are greatly amplified. In Devereaux's case, he still believes he is a soldier who wants to go home, while Scott believes he is still in Vietnam fighting insurgents. When Devereaux and Roberts leave the doctor's office, they are caught and arrested by the police. En route to jail, the police convoy is ambushed by Scott and GR76. A chase ensues, ending when the police bus and the UniSol truck both drive off a cliff and explode, killing GR76. Devereaux and Roberts head to Devereaux's family's farm in Louisiana.

After Devereaux reunites with his family, Scott appears and takes the family and Roberts hostage. A brutal fight ensues, and Scott's use of muscle enhancers enables him to mercilessly beat Devereaux. Roberts manages to escape, only to be seemingly killed by a grenade thrown by Scott. Devereaux grabs the muscle enhancers Scott used and injects himself. Now evenly matched, Devereaux fights back and is able to impale Scott on the spikes of a hay harvester. Devereaux then starts the machine up, grinding Scott into pieces. Roberts survived the explosion and she and Devereaux embrace.

Alternate ending[edit]

The Special Edition DVD release features an alternative ending which starts shortly after Scott takes Deveraux's family and Roberts hostage. As Deveraux grabs a shotgun in the kitchen, the front door opens and he sees his mother before Scott shoots her to death. In the final fight between Deveraux and Scott, Deveraux does not use Scott's muscle enhancers. Shortly after grinding Scott to death, Deveraux is shot by his father before Dr. Christopher Gregor and his men appear.

Gregor explains that he used Deveraux to get both him and Scott, and that Deveraux was living with people posing as his parents. He then has his men shoot Deveraux, but before Deveraux dies, the police and Roberts' news crew arrive. The news crew douse Deveraux with a fire extinguisher to stabilize him while Dr. Gregor and his men are arrested. Roberts is given the microphone to cover the arrest, but she loses all composure while on the air, dropping the microphone to comfort Deveraux.

Several days later, Deveraux is reunited with his real parents. The film ends with a eulogy narrated by Roberts, who explains that Deveraux rejected all life-prolonging medications before dying a natural death.



Principal photography began in August 1991. Carolco, the company that produced the film, was having financial troubles and hoped that the film box office return would keep them afloat.[5]

At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated. On his website, Dolph Lundgren confirmed that it was just a publicity stunt to promote the film.[6] It was the last film that used the multi-channel surround sound format, Cinema Digital Sound.


Universal Soldier opened in theaters on July 10, 1992 where it grossed $10,057,084 from 1916 theaters with a $5,249 per screen average. It opened and peaked at No. 2, behind A League of Their Own's second weekend. Grossing $36,299,898 in US ticket sales, it underperformed given its $23 million budget.[2]

The film was poorly received by critics. Mainstream critics dismissed it as a Terminator 2 clone, or as a typical, mindless action film.[7][8][9][10] Based on reviews from 26 critics the film holds an approval rating of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.[11]


  1. ^ "Jean-Claude Van Damme". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  2. ^ a b "Van Damme very determined". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  3. ^ A Man of Action: Will Van Damme Have Schwarzenegger's Kick? DAVID WALLACE SPECIAL TO THE TIMES. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Aug 1991: F1.
  4. ^ "Universal Soldier Box Office". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  5. ^ Willman, David (July 10, 1992). "Carolco Pictures Pins Hopes for Rescue on Its 'Universal Soldier'". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ "Official Dolph Lundgren Website: Universal Soldier (1992)". 
  7. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1992-07-10). "Van Damme and Lundgren Square Off in 'Soldier'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-07-10). "FILM Review/Film; The Afterlife Of Muscular Automatons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  9. ^ "Universal Soldier". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  10. ^ "Universal Soldier". Washington Post. 1992-07-10. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  11. ^ Universal Soldier at Rotten Tomatoes

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