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A lifelong mercenary commander and weapons expert played by George Lazenby is commissioned to train an army for an exiled African leader. But as his conscience finally catches up to him, he is seen as a threat to the powers behind the operation. Written by
George Lazenby said that after doing the excellent On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he doubted that the James Bond era could continue much longer with the arrival of new films such as Easy Rider.
This could well be among the worst predictions made in movie history but its an interesting one that goes some way to explaining the thinking behind Lazenby's next project, Universal Soldier.
This film has the influence of Easy Rider written all over it and in trying too hard to copy the style of what was a cinematic one-off, Universal Soldier is prevented from developing into a coherent story.
Very little happens in this film and too little is clearly explained. From what I can put together only a couple of hours after seeing the film, Ryker (Lazenby) is a mercenary soldier in some kind of deal with an African group, represented by Mbote played by none other than Rudolph Walker, better known in the UK as Patrick Trueman in Eastenders. At night Ryker is haunted by the images of violence he has seen in his career.
The accidental shooting of a dog and its subsequent merciful (or is it bloodthirsty?) slaying during a bit of fun target practice seems to trigger Ryker's conscience as he loses interest in the African deal. He rents a basement flat, goes to parties, attends a political meeting, starts dating a schoolgirl(!) whilst his group members wonder what has happened to him.
Once he is found, it is too late. He has decided upon another way of life...
I'm actually making this sound better than it is. For the most part Universal Soldier is incoherent with jarring and misplaced musical interludes (the Easy Rider influence) and it is very difficult to tell what, if anything, is going on .
Despite this, it remains watchable throughout mainly for two reasons; its curiosity value in seeing how Lazenby followed up being 007 and the sheer strangeness of the whole film.
Anyone with an interest in either of these points would be recommended to try and track down this film although it isn't easy to get hold of.
Fans of Open All Hours may also want to watch this as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel makes an appearance and I'm sure its Mr Bronson from Grange Hill working in the airport in the first scene.
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