Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009): Breakdown by Kain424
When a rebel Soviet group, using stolen UniSol technology, kidnap the Russian Prime Minister’s children and fortify themselves in Chernobyl, Luc Deveraux is sent back into action.
Pretending the other sequels to Universal Soldier don’t exist, this film sees Luc Deveraux as damaged goods and caught up in the ugliness of the real world. By taking the universe from the almost cartoonish atmosphere of the original and planting it somewhere closer to the bounds of reality, director John Hyams has somehow managed to breathe life into a rather stale and redundant franchise. Dark, gritty and cold, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a triumph in DTV film making. Every once in a while, an Action movie comes along and completely renews my love of the genre, and this is one of them.
Refusing to hold back, but also knowing where to stop and stay realistic, the movie presents a series of dynamic action sequences that seem to defy the usual DTV budget constraints. Beginning with a car chase/shootout, going on to a one-man army sequence, and finally capping the film with a couple superhuman brawls, Regeneration earns its R rating with a badge of honor. The refusal of the filmmakers to use CGI and the emphasis on stunts and camerawork make for an impressive feature, seamlessly blending modern filming techniques while still hearkening back to old school action extravaganzas.
Hyams knows his way around a scene and with his father Peter Hyams working the camera, the picture ultimately gets a better look than expected. Often emulating the POV style featured in FPS video games, the director actively involves the audience in the gunfights. The cold, steel exteriors are given warm lighting and character’s profile shots add to the movie’s almost voyeuristic approach. The fact that they decide it’s not necessary to cut to a new angle every half second makes every scene flow with a natural ease, which in turn enables us to hold our attention to everything going on. Once the action scenes begin, this sensation is heightened and then complimented by Hyams, who allows us to see every punch thrown and every blow connect. Complex fight maneuvers are given ample wide angles to display to the audience the power and precision of every attack. This is the sort of thing that makes DTV the last bastion for true action.
In addition to being shot well, the fights are expertly choreographed. Aging action stars Van Damme and Lundgren come out looking more fierce than ever, with real-life MMA fighters Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski and Mike Pyle showing off their goods so well they come off as naturals in their parts. The use of people who can actually pull these moves off goes a long ways in lending credibility to the script, which may be the only thing even remotely lacking here.
The story is rather simplistic, but it gets the job done. This is especially true if the job was just getting titans Van Damme and Lundgren to clash again. Still, everything seems a bit too dark at times, which vastly contrasts with the look and feel of the original. The themes of becoming misused property are again brought up, but are now lent a more sinister tone. By the end of the movie, you may be wondering just how dirty they want you to feel about all of what has happened. But to focus on that is perhaps to miss the point entirely, which was to simply enjoy the action. Minimal dialog and only loose character arcs reflect this intent, with the kidnapped family members of the plot ending up mere mute spectators to the film’s events. Just as the audience is supposed to feel. Be impressed. Very impressed.
So if you’re looking for story, dramatic tension, and state-of-the-art CGI effects, you probably shouldn’t go anywhere near the Universal Soldier series (and whatever the case, stay away from Universal Soldier: The Return). In fact, you might want to try the Terminator movies. But if you want great fight scenes, Van Dammage and more crazy Dolph Lundgren, this is where it’s at. Finally, a worthy sequel to the original. Here’s hoping they don’t fuck it up again.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Jean-Claude Van Damme is Luc Deveraux
Easily his most lethal role, Van Damme is once again Luc Deveraux but as a soft-spoken, broken down shadow of what he used to be. He takes handfuls of vitamins, has recurring amnesia, and needs constant psychotherapy reminiscent of the psychiatric work done on war vets with PTS.
However, once reinjected with muscle enhancers and whatever else they put into UniSol units (Gatorade, Red Bull, etc), he again becomes the killing machine we saw in the post-credits sequence of the first film. A drowsy eyed, single-soldier army capable of taking hit after hit with barely a flinch in response. Disappointingly, he never performs his signature split-kick, but he still kicks all kinds of ass, be it with a gun or a knife. Van Damme hasn’t been this B.A. since Hard Target.
Andrei Arlovski is Series 7 NGU (Next Generation UniSol)
The Pitbull leaves his beard at home but brings his brutal intensity to the screen, moving like a sped up terminator and killing twice as easily. With nary a word, Arlovski is one of the coolest bad-asses ever to fire a machine gun. The sequence where he kills off a squad of invading UniSols is one of the best “stalking” sequences since Rambo: First Blood Part II. Best of all, his real-life fighting ability makes for great cinematic awesomeness, as he utterly destroys one foe after another. Absolutely bad-ass.
Mike Pyle is Captain Kevin Burke
Like Channing Tatum but with talent, Pyle is the real surprise of Regeneration. As a soldier who follows instinct before orders, he somehow manages to add a bit of heroism and heart to the otherwise cold and dim story. Also a real MMA fighter, he’s able to hold his own against Andrei Arlovski, making their battle all the more great to watch. He seems to possess a natural charisma, making him a prime fit for the Action genre.
Dolph Lundgren is Andrew Scott #2
The clone of Sgt. Scott may look a bit older, but there’s still something slightly off about the guy. A quieter, more subtle version of the screaming maniac from the first UniSol picture, he’s still one mean psychopath. He can crush a man’s skull in between his giant hands or just beat a man to death. And just because he can, he will.
[THE BODY COUNT: 131]
This sequel is far more violent than any of its predecessors. With over a hundred onscreen kills, there’s plenty of room for variety and the filmmakers don’t disappoint. While most of the deaths are indeed those from gunshot, we also get landmine explosions, slit throats, severe stabbings, crushed heads, several people are beaten to death, and a few are blown up.
The violence is realistic, reflecting the gritty tone of the movie, and as such we get a lot of squibwork and fake blood. Knife wounds produce ample blood splatters, and there’s bones protruding through some wounds while we get to see other people get the back of their head blown out. Andrei Arlovski steals the show in this one, making out with around 50 of the kills. Van Damme provides his highest onscreen killcount yet, with 39 corpses to Dolph’s 4. Over a hundred die, and all of them in extremely brutal fashion.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Major SPOILER alert!
Essentially a continuation of the final fight from the original Universal Soldier film, Van Damme and Lundgren trade blow after blow in close quarters combat. Smashing through walls, tables, pots and pans, they finally fall through the side of the building that’s been made as their arena and come crashing down onto the hard ground some thirty or so feet below them.
As Sgt. Scott’s clone crawls toward his collapsed foe, Deveraux suddenly grabs a piece of broken piping from the ground and stabs it into his attacker’s forehead. Then, sticking his shotgun barrel into the open end of the piping, he blasts out the back of the big man’s head. No “You’re discharged, Sarge!” No quip at all. Just bloody, brainless (gotcha!) violence.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Aside from having nerdy scientists constantly injecting shirtless jocktypes and asking if they’re “feeling warm”, there really isn’t much I can read into here. This movie books it to the Action sequences so fast even Van Damme doesn’t have time to drop trou’ and show us his perfectly formed ass. [Editor’s Note: You Noticed.] Oh well.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Of the three women present in the film, one gets kidnapped and hardly says a word, another just nags at her husband while he tries to deal with desperate matters of State, and the final one comes off as sympathetic for a while, being Deveraux’s shrink. But then she injects him with UniSol juice and sends him back into violent situations, something he’s apparently tried to recover from for the last 18 years. Thanks a lot, bitch.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Other than the opening chase sequence, my favorite moment was when the clone of Andrew Scott suddenly goes AWOL. After elbowing a man’s head into the concrete floor, he looks up at his creator, repeating a question he once failed to give the “correct” answer to, and begins approaching the scientist.
“Do you often contemplate the complexity of life?”
He continues his version of the psychiatric questions asked to him, but now there is more menace and violent desperation, with Andrew’s sanity gone like the life he’s about to crush out of the man responsible for his creation.
“Do you know how to put every minute of your time to good purpose?”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
One day your evil scientific experiment is going to kill you. And DTV is awesome, but we already knew that. Oh, and ruined franchises can be saved, even after three shitty sequels.
[THE VAN DAMMAGE: 2 outta 5]
[ ] An Entire Fight, Sans Shirt
[ ] Close-Up Screaming
[ ] Dancing
[X] Jump-Kicks A Guy, Through Something
[X] Special Move Involving Either The Splits or A Spinning Round-House Kick
[THE LIST OF LUNDGREN: 1 outta 5]
[ ] Ends The Movie Smiling
[ ] Gets Captured
[ ] Screams While Shooting
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[ ] Teaches Values
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice