It’s been an uphill battle for Universal Soldier to get a proper franchise off the ground ever since the original garnered much success in 1992. The star, and reason why my heart still beats, Jean-Claude Van Damme, did not return for the two followed sequels, which were made for TV. (It’s important you know Gary Busey and Burt Reynolds took his place, respectively.) Nine years later, JCVD returned to the franchise for Universal Soldier: The Return, in hopes of rebooting the franchise. It failed at the box office and all hope was lost in humanity (to the 16-year-old me, at least).

Van Damme didn’t have a lot of luck after the late nineties – his films faced the kiss of death and all went straight-to-DVD. In 2008, he made a triumphant return as himself in an unapologetic and sweet self-mockery of his career movie called JCVD (he was robbed of an Oscar nomination. ROBBED.). Ten years had passed since we last saw him in a Universal Soldier movie, and since Van Damme was back on everyone’s radar, he gave the series another shot with Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Dolph Lundgren even returned to fill the fanboy excitement. This film did not have the impact everyone hoped. There was a warm fire to it, however, and Van Damme re-teamed with Regeneration’s director John Hyams to make a fourth installment called Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. This ambitious film takes the franchise in a whole new direction, trading out boring redundant fight scenes with fresh, stylized violence, and roundhouse kicks to fanboy glory. Day of Reckoning is the Universal Soldier follow up we’ve been anxiously waiting for since the release of the original.

In Day of Reckoning, JCVD is back and so is Lundgren (Andrew Scott just. Won’t. Stay. Dead.). Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski returns to wreak havoc as well. Reckoning is being referred to as a quasi-sequel to Regeneration, and that’s because in the latter, we learn that instead of reanimating dead soldiers, the government has just been cloning the original Universal Soldiers; Andrew Scott (Lundgren) happened to be one of them.

In Reckoning, a new, equally psychotic Scott returns (another clone, if I’ve lost you), and has finally joined forces with his nemesis, Luc Deveraux (JCVD). Here’s why: Deveraux has gone mad and is now an evil son-of-a-bitch hell bent on taking over the government, one soldier at a time, dead or alive. He covers his bald head in warpaint and uses a serum to brainwash meathead soldiers to join his side. The lion-hearted Deveraux we once knew is now forever gone. When Psycho’s Anthony Perkins once famously said in 1960, “We all go a little mad, sometimes,” he was obviously talking about Luc Deveraux. But, I guess if you trick yourself into believing this one’s a clone, it softens the blow.

This go-around, our focus isn’t on Deveraux or Scott, but on fresh blood John, played by Scott Adkins (Undisputed IIIThe Expendables 2). In the first scene of the film, John’s wife and daughter are brutally murdered right before his very eyes. The man responsible is Deveraux himself. After a nine month nap that’s clinically called a coma, John awakens and sets out to find out why this happened to him – he can only remember so much. Throughout his journey of I-need-some-goddamn-answers, he is plagued by memories of his deceased family and the man responsible for their deaths.

The excitement of this film boils down to Hyams. He tossed out all of the bullshit he used in his first attempt at a Universal Soldier film and made an incredible, intense cyberpunk action film that would make Nicolas Winding Refn crack a smile. Hyams traded in boring fast cuts and close-up kicks and punches for carefully stylized violence. He’s come a long way since Regeneration.

It was also a smart move to give Adkins the lead role. He’s credible enough to lead a film and his fans would agree he should be a bigger movie star than he currently is. It’s a shame, but Scott has learned to really bring out the punches in every film he’s in. His fighting in Reckoning is a slow burn and we don’t get to see much of it until almost the very end. This is actually a brilliant (and courageous) move from Hyams. It gives Adkins room to actually act (which he is exceptional at, by the way) and when it comes time for him to do what he does best (beat the shit out of people and look awesome while doing it), he does not disappoint. This is a treat for fans both new and old.

Even though we don’t get much of Van Damme or Lundgren, that’s OK, because Hyams has fearlessly taken the franchise in a whole new direction and pulls it off admirably. This could very well be the start of a fresh new and much deserved successful franchise for Universal Soldier.

Originally published on Film Threat.

Q&A: Jean-Claude Van Damme Kicks It With Us, Talks Villainy, Sequels & Remakes

Being a villain is hardly new territory for Jean-Claude Van Damme: He started his career as the bad guy in “No Retreat, No Surrender” and “Black Eagle.” Then, good fortune came his way and he was cast in a little movie called, “Bloodsport.” The rest is history.

A few days ago, we went round-for-round with the Muscles from Brussels himself, JCVD, to discuss his role as the rogue in Sylvester Stallone’s new male pattern badness adventure, "The Expendables 2."

Not only does JCVD talk about the upcoming “Bloodsport” remake, “Double Impact 2,” and the signature roundhouse kicks he performs in “The Expendables 2,” he gets up, moves furniture and shows with passionate detail how his kicks are done and why they work. Nothing ever prepares you for moments like this.

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Welcome back to the big screen. We’ve missed you a lot.
Thank you sir. I don’t know if [“The Expendables 2”] is going to help me but what do you think?

I want it to. But I have “Bloodsport” framed at my house.
You never know in Hollywood. They’re going to do a remake of “Bloodsport.”

Yeah that’s the rumor.
The guy who wrote “Taken” is writing and the producer is [Ed] Pressman. I want to be in the film as a trainer and I don’t think the writer wants [me] to.

His loss, man.
Nah, he knows that “Bloodsport” is a big film so he wants to get credit with all of that, you know what I’m saying? Like Will Smith, for example, was smart to [cast] Jackie Chan [in “Karate Kid 2010”] — it’s kind of cool. When I did the first “Bloodsport,” it was an independent company and [they] didn’t want bankruptcy so they sold the title all over the place — 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 “Bloodsports”  — the remake, I would love to be in. It’s kind of painful but maybe they’ll change their minds. That would be great because I can still kick better than anybody here today.

Let’s talk about that. In “The Expendables 2” you do your signature roundhouse kick. As you’re getting older, do you find it difficult or do you feel like you’ve still got it?
Here was the deal, because of the age and everything, they told me, “Don’t worry, we’re going to cover you well. You’re going to jump and we’ll do a cut.” And I told them, “But guys, let me do the full kick.” They were kind of surprised that I could still do it and I said, “Yeah, it’s the same as before. I’m going to try.”

Jean-Claude Van Damme in "The Expendables 2"

I [have been] doing it at the gym so I warmed up with the Bengay and everything and I stretched before the kick. And then I did my full kick the first time … I wanted to go a little more snappy and then I did it [again] the second time and it was no problem. You know that roundhouse kick. And then I have another kick [in the film] and it was like one shot. And then I [needed to do] ADR in Belgium and I’ve got Stallone on the phone and I said, “Sly, I don’t get it … I spent all of that time to do that kick and I asked those guys to put one angle so you can see the full kick like in “Bloodsport.” All we see is like me going like this.” [At this point, Van Damme gets up to pantomime the kick he’s referring to].

From the foot touching the knife. It’s like “BOOM!” and me landing. So I said to Sly, “What are you doing?” And he said “Let me go check in the cutting room,” because he was busy doing another movie. Then he sent me an email saying, “It’s arranged.” I haven’t seen the movie but basically I throw a knife in the air, Scott [Adkins] catches the knife. As soon as the knife was in the air, I didn’t even wait and I did the famous roundhouse kick.

Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme
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Technically “JVCD” was your big return, but “Expendables 2” is your big return to the action genre. Did you have any hesitations with playing a villain for your comeback or were you just like, “Let’s do it”?
I said, “Let’s do it.” I said to Sly, “What about me playing the villain?” … My father told me, “Be an Expendable, don’t try this and that,” and I said, “Dad, I want to be a villain again.” … Sly loved the idea of me being the villain. But I know it’s only one time, right? So, I don’t know the outcome. Hopefully the studio will like it but that’s what I wanted to do.

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in the action genre since you first started?
The technical came in — the CGI, the cables, all of that stuff. … With action, you have to be physical because, if you’re not, how can you do it? … With “The Expendables,” we have those groups of people who build their career like that, with those physical moves, without CGI and this and this and that … One film like that every two years where the action stars are going [at it] like the old times — that’s what I believe makes “The Expendables 2” special.

"The Expendables" franchise is a play on older action stars, that they still got "it" and they’re not going anywhere. Do you think there is a time when an action star should throw in the towel and pass the torch?
You know, you have to keep on going. It’s what we have inside of us that’s how we became famous, and it will never die. Look at Clint Eastwood for an example — he keeps on moving the best that he can, it’s great. Don’t give up. Plus we need that to have a nice life, I need to train. Sometimes I did have my life of the Rock ‘n’ Roll life. I fell down, I crashed and came back. Because of training every day or every other day depending on the traveling, the jet lag and everything, we can be this way. If I didn’t have that, I would be very depressed. If I don’t train for a week, I build toxins in my body and I sweat easily. It’s strange.

You’ve been immortalized  on screen as the hero and now you’re going to be immortalized as the villain. How does that feel?
It scares me. I directed a movie and that’s why I wasn’t able to be in “The Expendables.” We heard all types of [bogus gossip] stories - me and Jet Li fighting and all of that stuff; I’ve never even met Jet Li in my life. Hopefully we will meet in China because we might be doing a film together … But, I was cutting [the film I directed] and was responsible because I put my own money into that film and it’s a very strange movie. So [I didn’t do “The Expendables”] because I was busy cutting this film - we had to do additional shoots in Bulgaria and then I did a comedy called “Welcome to the Jungle”  — you have to see it, I play so dumb.

And then I starred in a film with Peter Hyams, the director of “Timecop,” who made me play a villain. But really a villain, like villain.  But I fight, you know when you fight you’re busy with your movement, so when you punch you go [shows how he punches] “BRUUUM!” and you go like “BAHM!” with grace. It was a great, great villain. So I’m doing three movies as a villain. Hopefully  I will not be categorized as a villain for the rest of my life [laughs].

Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Double Impact"
Stone Group Pictures

Picasso had his blue period - this is your villain period. Let’s go back to your “Double Impact” days. In an all-out brawl again, who would win in a fight Chad or Alex?

I was hoping you’d say Chad. He’s got the legs!
Yeah but Alex has the headbutt! “Mr. California, Mr. Silk underwear… BOOM!”

I have no franchise. I lost “Bloodsport,” “Lionheart,” I told you “Double Impact” [would be] a great franchise because today Chad would be like the guy in “JCVD” and Alex would be the guy like “The Expendables” and, with the experience with the acting, I came up with a great story set in Los Angeles. He’s playing a producer, making pictures with a big house behind him. Alex is gonna go on vacation and has some problems with the Triads. Why?  Because Chad went to Hong Kong and to get some money using [Alex’s] face, all of that bulls**t. Alex comes [to Los Angeles] to see Chad and he’s full of s**t, has a girl pregnant and she’s the sister of the big boss from South Central. It’s like “Double Impact” in Los Angeles.

That’s amazing.
Yeah, I wrote the script with a friend of mine, Sheldon. He did “Bloodsport” and “Double Impact” with me. Hopefully, somebody smart enough, like an agent or a producer, can put that back together … I’m excited about it, you know?

Originally posted on MTV’s

JCVD: 'Double Impact 2' Script Is Written

"Double Impact" is arguably one of action legend Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best films, for two reasons: It’s got double the Van Dammage and another face-off against the great Bolo Yeung (who played his "Bloodsport" nemesis).

When we met JCVD last week, we took the opportunity to ask him about the “Double Impact” days — and Van Damme began to gush about the possibility of  a sequel.

"I wrote the script with a friend of mine Sheldon - He [co-wrote] "Bloodsport" and "Double Impact" with me," he told us. "Hopefully, somebody smart enough, like an agent or a producer, can put that back together…I’m excited about it, you know?"

One of the things Van Damme stressed was the lack of franchises in his career: “I have no franchise. I lost ‘Bloodsport,’ ‘Lionheart.’”

“‘Double Impact’ [would be] a great franchise,” he told us, explaining how he thinks his twin characters Chad and Alex might have evolved. “Today, Chad would be like the guy in ‘JCVD’ and Alex would be the guy like ‘The Expendables.’”

"I came up with a great story set in Los Angeles. [Chad] is a producer, making pictures with a big house behind him. Alex is gonna go on vacation and has some problems with the Triads. Why?  Because Chad went to Hong Kong and to get some loan money using [Alex’s] face, all of that bulls**t. And Alex comes [to Los Angeles] to see Chad and he’s full of s**t, has a girl pregnant, and she’s the sister of the big boss from South Central. It’s like ‘Double Impact’ in Los Angeles."

Van Damme did and still does have a franchise — the “Universal Soldier” series — but he did try to bring the original’s magic back with “Universal Solider: Regeneration.” Even Dolph Lundgren came back,  but the film still went straight-to-DVD. He’s just completed “Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning” with Lundgren (apparently Sgt. Andrew Scott will not stay dead.) and is slated for a November 30th theatrical release. It looks like his involvement in “The Expendables 2” is already starting to pay off.

Hopefully, we are going to Feel the Impact once more. Give us this, Hollywood.

Written on MTV’s

Jean-Claude Van Damme: I Want To Be a Shidoshi in 'Bloodsport' Remake

Unless you’ve been stranded on an island somewhere remote, you already know the Mussels from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, is set to make a comeback as an action star. In just a few weeks, you’ll be able to see him on the big screen — for the first time since his very first role in 1986, it’ll be (again) as the villain — in “The Expendables 2.”

We recently spoke with JCVD during his “Expendables” press tour, and before we worked through his feelings on being immortalized as a villain, we got a chance to discuss the “Bloodsport” remake. Internet rumors that Van Damme has the blues over the movie are true, it turns out.

"I want to be in the film as a trainer and I don’t think the writer wants [me] to … he knows that ‘Bloodsport’ is a big film so he wants to get credit with all of that — you know what I’m saying?"

Now, we understand why the writer might not want Van Damme in the picture — with JCVD involved, he would certainly steal a majority of the spotlight — but the idea of putting him as Frank Dux’s trainer  (originally played by Roy Chiao as Senzo Tanaka, whom he called Shidoshi) would really roundhouse kick up the movie’s buzz.

"When I did the first ‘Bloodsport,’" he told us, "it was an independent company and [they] didn’t want bankruptcy, so they sold the title all over the place - 2,3,4,5,6 ‘Bloodsports.’ The remake, I would love to be in it.  It’s kind of painful, but maybe they’ll change their minds. That would be great because I can still kick better than anybody here today."

You can’t argue with that. Hollywood, are you listening?

Follow Chase Whale on Twitter.