At last, a movie that asks the question: Are two high-cheekboned muscleheads who sound as if they learned to speak English phonetically really better than one? In Universal Soldier, the doe-eyed Belgian kickboxer Jean-Claude Van Damme teams up with the Swedish Überhulk Dolph Lundgren. The two play American soldiers who were killed in action in Vietnam and then regenerated — you know, genetically — into humanoid military commandos. Lundgren, who went psycho in ‘Nam, has become a vengeful terminator. Beady eyes rolled up into his forehead, he looks like Lurch the butler’s Eurotrash brother, and his low-camp performance is vaguely amusing.
Van Damme, on the other hand, is hopeless. He plays the sensitive one — a programmed killer out to rediscover his human self, like Robocop — which means that he spends the movie staring into space trying to look ”wounded.” Tagging along with him is a chatty TV reporter (Ally Walker) whose most noteworthy trait is that…she smokes. Viewers primed for a postapocalyptic blowout will be disappointed to learn that Universal Soldier is set in the boring old present day, and that until the climactic clash the film is slow-moving and short on firepower. When Van Damme wanders into a white-trash diner and, for no particular reason, beats up everyone in the place, you’re pathetically grateful to see him awaken from his acting stupor and snap a few limbs. D+