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observation notes: Universal Soldiers

This sci-fi action spectacle is This Asylum's tie-in to the popular JCVD series about genetically-modified super soldiers that to date has generated five five - yes, I know, it's unbelievable but true; Van Damme's in 3 of them, including the last two, and the cheapies in the middle trade off Gary Busey and Burt Reynolds as bad guys. But I digress...

In this take, directed by Griff Furst (I Am Omega, 100 Million B.C.) from a script by Geoff Meed (I Am Omega, 6 Guns) based on a story by David Michael Latt (Pirates of Treasure Island, War of the Worlds), a platoon of the above-mentioned genetically-modified super soldiers - made x amount stronger, smarter, faster, and more resilient than the average soldier - goes haywire fresh off the assembly line, sending scientists and soldiers alike scrambling to get out of the building before the universal soldiers bring it down on top of them. Once outside, however, their situation doesn't improve in the slightest, as they're in the middle of wooded-nowhere, on foot, with the platoon still hot on their heels, seemingly intent on killing them all. From here it becomes another case of who's going to get it when, mixed together with some scientific backstory and the typical theories about whether or not the soldiers can evolve on their own, assume their own directives, accompanied by the typical conclusion that if so, everyone in the party is pretty much set to be fucked beyond all recognition. Inner-personal tensions flare and threaten to defeat our heroes before their enemies can, some soldiers strive harder to survive than others, twists and turns unfurl like snapdragons and all-in-all shit pops off in very violent, expletive-filled and explosive ways.

Kind of a cross between Aliens, Universal Soldier and The Asylum's own version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, overall this one's a riveting if dark adventure that kicks off in the first frame and builds accordingly through each of its 85 minutes towards a rewarding and thrilling climax. The story moves fast, the dialogue is appropriately, brutally bleak, and despite such a large ensemble of characters, a dozen at core to start, each feels fleshed out and individualized, distinct, which is a major, major credit to the screenwriting of Geoff Meed. This is an aggressive film, relentless in its action, physicality and terror, and easily as fun and entertaining as any of the actual sequels in the tie-in franchise, if not more so for its focus on the soldier-side of the battle between soldiers and super soldiers.

Speaking of the soldiers, as mentioned this is an ensemble cast with many familiar faces, including Jason S. Gray (The Apocalypse, The Da Vinci Treasure, Alien vs Hunter), Kevin Kazakoff (Alien vs. Hunter), Noel Thurman (Transmorphers, Supercroc, Dracula's Curse, Beast of Bray Road), Randy Mulkey (Alien vs Hunter) and even a cameo by director (not of this) Justin Jones (The Apocalypse), all of whom pull together to make this one of the most successful ensembles in The Asylum's vault. But it's lead Kristen Quintrall who once again, as she did in The Apocalypse, steals the show. As the private first class among higher-ranking soldiers, she is fierce, harsh, every inch a believable warrior and frighteningly sexy. Her intensity makes the entire film more palpable, and really brings to life the tension and suspense sewn into the script. She takes the role and makes it one of the strongest female roles in all The Asylum, to rival Sarah Lieving in Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus and Cynthia Rose Hall in Supercroc, and as such she is just as irresistible to watch. Whoo-ah!

And finally credit must be given to director Griff Furst, who here has composed an exhilarating as well as beautifully dark film, akilter in all the right ways, playful with light and shadow, soft focus, and all-in-all a very atmospheric, chilling experience. Kudos, sir.

So to conclude, I say if you find yourself hankering for some Universal Soldier follow-ups, skip the immediate sequels and head here first, I guarantee it's a better time.

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