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Action fans, if you like completely mindless dumb fun, then UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN ($29) may just be the movie for you. As the eighty-three minute running time would indicate, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN provides just enough plot to take the characters from action sequence to the next. Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the role of Luc Devereaux, the character he portrayed in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, who just happened to be one of the original Unisols or Universal Soldiers. Unisols were created by applying a lot of high tech science to the bodies of dead soldiers- thus turning them into unstoppable fighting machines. After being brought back to life, and surviving the ordeal or the first film, the doctors were able to reverse the process, turning Luc back into a normal, living human being. Strangely, Luc now works for the military agency that turned him into a Unisol, and serves as one of the project's leaders.

Things spin out of control at Unisol project headquarters when SETH, the supercomputer that controls the Unisols, discovers that the government is shutting down the Universal Soldier program. Unwilling to allow his own termination, the SETH computer system takes control of the government installation with the help of the Unisols under its controls. However, taking over the facility is just a delaying tactic that allows SETH enough time to transfer its consciousness into the body of a prototype Super-Unisol. Once transferred into his new body, SETH sees himself as the next step in human evolution and plans a bit of natural selection to weed out the obsolete form of humanity. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is basically a series of confrontations between former Universal Soldier Luc Devereaux and the current crop of Unisols. This of course, leads to the inevitable showdown between Luc and SETH. The cast of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN includes Michael Jai White, Heidi Schanz, Xander Berkeley, Justin Lazard, Kiana Tom, Daniel von Bargen, James Black, Karis Paige Bryant and Bill Goldberg. By the way, since I switched my thinking cap off for this flick, this mindless reviewer gives the gratuitous fight scene in the strip club a big thumbs up.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is respectable, but the film falls victim to its own production style, which looked fine in standard def, but doesnít hold up as well in high definition. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN was shot in a diffuse style that incorporates a lot of smoke and fog, so the image isnít as crisp as newer movies. Close-ups offer the sharpest imagery, with medium and long shots appearing less resolved. Colors are rendered at a fairly natural level of saturation. Blacks appear reasonably accurate, as do the whites. Contrast is fine, while shadow detail is a bit hamstrung by the smoky cinematography. The film elements from which UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN have been mastered are pretty clean. Grain is ever present and appears an accurate reflection of the stocks on which the film was shot.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The sound is big loud and takes advantage of all the discrete channels for the numerous action sequences. Sound effects bounce around the soundstage pretty nicely, although the sound isnít as slick as newer productions. Fidelity is pretty strong; the music has good presence, while the sound effects seem believable. The bass channel track adds plenty of kick. Dialogue is generally easy to understand. French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD soundtracks are also present, as is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Dutch.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements, most of which are ported over from the DVD releases. The Making of Universal Soldier: The Return is five minutes of the usual fluff. Michael Jai White finds the actor reviewing his training methods for the film (four minutes). Jean-Claude Van Damme: Looking Back- Moving Forward promotes the actorís other films in the Sony library. Some Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is completely mindless, dumb action fun. The Blu-ray presentation allows the film to look as good as it can in high definition, but it is far from demo material.



Universal Soldier: The Return [Blu-ray] (1999)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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