Universal Soldier: The Return

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.

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]

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, former Uni Sol Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is reverted back to normal after having had his cybernetic implants removed. He currently works a technical expert for the U.S. government with his new partner Maggie (Kiana Tom), who has been through countless hours of combat training with him. They worked to refine and perfect the Uni Sol Program in an effort to make a new, stronger breed of soldiers that are more sophisticated and intelligent to reduce the use of normal, human soldiers in the battlefield. All of the new UniSols (known as the Uni Sols 2500), which are faster and stronger than the original UniSols, are connected via neural implants through a sentient artificially intelligent computer system called S.E.T.H. (Self-Evolving Thought Helix).

When S.E.T.H. discovers that the Uni Sol Program is scheduled to be shut down because of budget cuts, he finds this to be a disgrace and decides to take action by formulating a plot to overthrow the humans and take over the world with his own massive army of Uni Sols. The next day, S.E.T.H. unleashes a platoon of Uni Sols, led by the musclebound Romeo (Bill Goldberg), in a hostile takeover of the Uni Sol building, resulting the deaths of many occupants, including Dr. Dylan Cotner (Xander Berkeley), who is responsible for reverting Luc back to normal. As such, Luc, Maggie, and the others are forced to evacuate, With the help of a rogue cyberpunk named Squid (Brent Hinkley), S.E.T.H. is able to put himself in a Uni Sol body (Michael Jai White) superior to others. In the meantime, Maggie noticed that Luc's daughter Hilary (Karis Paige Bryant) has suffered a brain swelling after almost being attacked by Romeo, and takes her to the local hospital.

Luc attempts to find a way to shut down S.E.T.H. with the help from ambitious reporter Erin Young (Heidi Schanz), whose cameraman died in the massacre. General Radford (Daniel von Bargen) wants to take extreme measures to stop S.E.T.H. by sending in troops, but most of the troops (alongside a TV reporter and her crew) were massacred by four Uni Sols; even when Luc briefly tried to lead a team of United States Army Rangers, most of the Rangers are killed when a Uni Sol sentry sees them sneaking into the building.

Luc and Erin then track down Squid after learning that he was a former member of the Uni Sol Program, but S.E.T.H. arrives and kills Squid, revealing an ultimatum to Luc: he must give up the secret code that is needed to deactivate a built-in program that will shut S.E.T.H. down in a matter of hours so that no one will stop him. To ensure that Luc would cooperate, a departing S.E.T.H. got Romeo to track down Hilary at the hospital, and S.E.T.H. kidnapped Hilary while Romeo killed Maggie and several hospital guards. Upon returning to the Uni Sol building, S.E.T.H. deactivated a time bomb implanted by Radford to prevent the Uni Sol building from being destroyed, much to Radford's outrage.

Having no other choice, Luc returns to the Uni Sol building again and takes down many Uni Sols, right before learning that Maggie has been revived as a Uni Sol. He also learns that S.E.T.H. is healing Hillary with Uni Sol technology, and upon receiving the code, S.E.T.H. decides to kill Luc and revert Hilary as a Uni Sol so that he can raise her as his own daughter. Eventually, Luc destroys S.E.T.H. by covering his body in liquid nitrogen and shattering him to pieces, but the remaining Uni Sols are still active; even Romeo catches and defeats Luc in combat, intending to kill him and lead the remaining Uni Sols into battle. However, Maggie (who has been freed due to S.E.T.H.'s demise) shoots Romeo and allows Luc and Hilary to leave, asking Luc to blow up the building with herself, Romeo and the remaining Uni Sols inside as she refuses to live the rest of her life as a Uni Sol. Luc reluctantly obliges to Maggie's wishes by setting off the time bomb to destroy the building, killing the remaining Uni Sols for good. Luc then reunites with Erin and Hilary, satisfied that they have put an end to S.E.T.H.'s plot and avenged their loved ones.


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 officeEdit

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 responseEdit

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 mediaEdit

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 linksEdit