The Ultimate Rematch.
Director: John Hyams
2009 | 97 Minutes | Rated R
“You often think about humankind and its destiny? Yes or no? Who am I?” – Andrew Scott
Ten years after the previous entry in the series we were surprised by the announcement of Universal Soldier: Regeneration. I had no clue what to expect. I loved the original and guiltily (that’s a word!) enjoyed The Return. But I had assumed that this series was done and left in the past, never to be heard from again. How good could it possibly be after a ten year hiatus, a relatively untested director and a direct to DVD release? Turns out… pretty darn good.
Terrorists have seized a nuclear reactor and are threatening to blow it and a politician’s children up. Defending the terrorists is a new version of UniSol (Andrei Arlovski) leaving the military no choice but to reactivate Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the original Universal Soldier who has been decommissioned and has been in psychotherapy trying to acclimate him to normal, everyday life.
The story of Universal Soldier: Regeneration bounces between a pretty standard terrorist plot involving super soldiers and the story of what has become of Luc Deveraux after he was no longer useful by the military. He’s in therapy, getting closer to being human again everyday but ultimately still a long ways off.
Ultimately the original film’s stars – Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren – take a back seat to two UniSol newbs and UFC fighters Mike Pyle and Andrei Arlovski. Mike Pyle’s character is decently interesting. He’s basically the only soldier in the movie that isn’t genetically enhanced. There’s not a whole lot of character development for him but you can’t help but root for the guy. Andrei Arlovski’s character, on the other hand, is huge, brutal and under the control of the terrorists. Easy to hate.
Van Damme’s Luc Deveraux has more heart than ever… honestly more heart than Van Damme has probably ever shown. On top of that, he’s still a huge badass.
I don’t want to say that Dolph is wasted here… he isn’t… but his appearance isn’t a whole lot more than a cameo. He has a few good lines and some good action but it just isn’t too long-lived.
Speaking of the action, it’s pretty top notch. It starts with Arlovski basically annihilating anything and everything he comes into contact with. The fights have a flare of MMA to them with some grappling and submissions thrown in for good measure. The style of fights definitely adds to the “realism” of it all but a few submissions, like the triangle choke, don’t really seem appropriate for film fighting. And the long take Van Damme vs. Dolph fight with them both barreling through walls and down stairs is one of the most memorable of the entire series thus far.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration felt like a breath of fresh air for the series that I had thought dead. Gone is any sense of humor but in its place is an expertly crafted straight up, hard R actioner. I certainly hope John Hyams keeps pushing the envelope of the DTV (or even theatrical if we’re lucky) action genre.