As an avid martial artist and a movie nut, it probably isn't all that surprising that I have such an affection for kung-fu flicks. While it's fairly easy for me to establish the upper reaches of a hierarchy in this glorious sub-genre (Bruce Lee is king, and the Shaw Brothers catalog occupies the second rung from the top), it gets a bit murky after that. As a child of the 80s, it's no shocker that I have mad love for Chuck, and the 90s were also very generous to my generation so far as flying kicks and karate chops are concerned. While Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were vying for box office supremacy on the big screen, guys like Don Wilson, Gary Daniels, and Richard Norton were kicking the shit out of the cable scene--and Jackie Chan and Jet Li were doing big business in the East.
While I enjoyed Segal's badass persona, it always bothered me that he had no real competition in his movies. Most of his work generally consisted of him wading through hordes of low-level goons, and he rarely squared off against any real physical threats. For the longest time, his biggest test came in the form of a coked-up William Forsythe in Out for Justice. Meanwhile, though JCVD features piled on the cheese and chutzpah and frequently veered toward the ridiculous, he had his fair share of quality showdowns along the way. That's primarily why I came to favor his work, and for whatever reason, I have been revisiting his catalog recently. As I look back, I can't help but use this platform to shape and share my thoughts.
That's right, folks, it's time for another Top 5, and this one is devoted to the action move megastar known as "The Muscles from Brussels" and his acrobatic martial arts classics/cheesefests.
Top 5 JCVD Movies
#4) Universal Soldier (1992)
In my opinion, this is an easy call for this particular Top 5, but it doesn't rank any higher because I feel there are a few things that should be noted. Most importantly, I believe it is a bit overrated simply because it pits Van Damme against Dolph Lundgren. For whatever reason, while it has never been uncommon for major stars to work together in most genres, it always seems like a big deal when a couple of action heroes share the screen. Long before The Expendables took things to a whole new level, we had to settle for Universal Soldier and Tango & Cash, and, well, Tango & Cash is Tango & Cash. I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean that in a Tango & Cash way--which is pretty much the same thing, but I digress. Anyway, it seemed like a big deal when these two titans shared the screen, and they do have chemistry, and each guy brings impressive physical tools to the table. Take the star power out of the equation, however, and you're left with a non-sensical sci-fi slugfest that defies logic at every turn. But that's okay, because as it turns out, so long as you have JCVD and Dolph on board, you don't need logic. The second major point I should make is that while this may be Van Damme's list, Universal Soldier is Dolph Lundgren's show. Don't get me wrong, this is actually one of Jean-Claudes better performances, but Dolph steals every scene that he's in, steamrolling everyone around him. Dude was clearly born to play a heavy, and the writers made this bad guy a bit of a riot, which gave Lundgren all the ammo he needed to run away with the picture. Now, all that aside, Universal Soldier is a solid outing for Van Damme, and it is highly entertaining. It offers up several huge action setpieces, and the filmmakers clearly spared no expense so far as big weapons and even bigger explosions are concerned. It has a bit of heart to go along with all the mayhem, even if that bit of heart is smothered in cheese, and it is never dull. Some may rank it a lot higher than I have, but I think the #4 spot on this list is just where this particular soldier should be deployed.
|It's Van Damme's Top 5, but Universal Soldier is Dolph's movie. Believe that.|