Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business (1998)

There are questions to be asked at the end of this movie, the second of a two-part miniseries of movies designed to launch a “Universal Soldier” TV series. Like, were they going to resurrect Jeff Wincott every week, only to kill him off again? And how long were they prepared to go before they told us just what it is that makes the UniSols so strong and controllable?

In case you were wondering if they were going to try during this movie, the misspelled name on the Deveraux family headstone (Devreaux) should clue you in that they’re not. They at least say it’s set in Toronto, rather than having Toronto sub for some US city; but that’s really the only sign that anyone was paying attention. Burt Reynolds, after being in part 2 for about five seconds, shows up for a meatier role here, as CIA deputy director / moustache-twirling villain “Mentor”, but for some reason he does about half his role with the crappiest Irish accent imaginable – that this was after “Boogie Nights”, when you’d have hoped his career was at a level again where he didn’t have to take parts in trash like this (much less try and sabotage them with bizarre character choices), makes it even weirder.

The first part of the movie is “Die Hard” but done in 15 minutes. Terrorists take over the Cyber-Wealth Summit, which is what 1998 imagined tech millionaires would be doing. Luc sneaks in, and easily kills every bad guy there- this is just to set up the terrorists as the next group of UniSol test subjects / reanimated super-soldiers, under the caring eye of evil doctor Walker (Richard MacMillan, a great “That Guy” who sadly died earlier this year). He’s got a baby he’s brewing up, and you know when he mentions an “accelerated growth” program we’re in for some fun – the identity of the soon-to-be-adult is never in doubt.

It’s been a day since I saw it and already the details are leaking out of my mind. There’s a Hard Boiled-”inspired” scene in a hospital, and yet more evidence of the programming given to the UniSols being pathetically easy to break. Seriously, you need to work on that, evil guys! There’s a beyond-bonkers coincidence as to the former career of Mentor and, once again, not quite enough action for a movie series based round a group of mostly indestructible zombie soldiers.

But, I have got a killer “bad guy economics” bit for you. The plot of this one hinges on the UniSols stealing a shipment of gold, designed to pay reparations to Jewish families who suffered under the Nazis. Okay, gold is nice and expensive. But…you’ve figured out how to reanimate the dead and have them come back with their memories perfectly intact (should you wish). This reanimation appears to make them immortal, so you could sell this technology for literally any price you wished to name. Why bother committing crimes?

Matt Battaglia once again starts off as a blank slate, only discovering he has emotions about halfway through – for the second half, he shows why he’s a fine actor and has remained in work despite these two debacles on his resume. Chandra West as Veronica is fine, and Wincott once again makes you wonder why they didn’t just build the series around him.

They do throw in a brilliantly dumb twist at the end, where they activate a bunch of sleeper UniSols, including President Clinton (!) I’d have done that a bit earlier to ease their problems – plus, if they have people like the President in their pocket, why are they messing around with pocket change like a shipment of gold? – but it’s a nice easter egg for a potential TV series.

I don’t have tons more to say about it, honestly. It’s like two episodes of a relatively poor TV show strung together (watch the MST3K-ed “Master Ninja” for evidence of the sort of thing I’m on about) and while worse movies have been made into TV shows, it’s not a great surprise why this didn’t make it. Perhaps the only surprising or noteworthy thing about the whole mess is that the Jean-Claude Van Damme-starring “Universal Soldier: The Return” was made the very next year, which indicates these were sat on the shelf for a long time, or someone grabbed the rights back as soon as they possibly could.

I shouldn’t have bothered watching these, and neither should you.

Rating: thumbs down

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