What would possess Zechs in reviewing the direct to DVD Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010)? Something very simple really: Dolph Lundgren versus Jean-Claude Van Damme, round 2.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Directed by: John Hyams
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Luc
Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski as NGU
Dolph Lundgren as Andrew Scott
Mike Pyle as Captain Kevin Burke
Corey Johnson as Col. John Coby
Garry Cooper as Dr. Porter
Zahary Baharov as Commander Topov
I'm a lover of movies; in fact, I love all kinds of movies. Amongst them all, action movies especially are my passion. However, I also do enjoy sci-fi, drama, comedy, and horror. As for romance? Eh, if the babe is hot it might be deemed possibly watchable for me. Though even then, that so did not help me when I watched The English Patient (1996). Otherwise, I rather watch Batman & Robin (1997) for 24 hours straight than see that cheesy romance flick (which is funny given it has Nazis, the Green Goblin, and Sayid from Lost in it). Still, I cannot see every movie known to man when they come out, or only hear good stuff about them. Therefore, I'll put my behind down and review the flick. Enter this column, where I finally state was the movie truly worth the price of viewing or not.
Yeah sorry about the massive delay on these articles. I've been busy on another work of mine for the Outhouse and a further article for this very column about the Greatest Film Villainous Lackeys of all time. Also Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) will be reviewed by me. Just next week. Anyway, onto Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010). Now I know what you're thinking even after the teaser above. Why in my right mind would I see a film series that has had three horrible sequels (one with Van Damme that went to theaters for the briefest of moments and two others which where also direct to DVD that had BUSEY and Burt Reynolds as the bad guys)? Honestly, the only answer I can give you is the trailers to this film actually made me want to see it. It also helps that they bring back not only Van Damme for this but also Dolph Lundgren as Andrew Scott (who got shredded into tiny bitty chunks in the original 1992 movie). How he returns in this well you'll soon learn.
Anyway, I add these factors into the facts that this was a direct to DVD movie I really wanted to see, even if quite honestly these sort of films are ninety-ninety nine percent of the time horrible (Highlander: The Source, Art of War who knows what, and a ton of horror franchises like Hellraiser, Wishmaster, Pumpkinhead, and of course Leprechaun) or just totally unnecessary (American Psycho 2 and all those American Pie flicks after Wedding *cough* ). So I was absolutely expecting just that. A total bummer of a film.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
This film rules. Everything in this film just clicked for me in watching it. But onto why later. The film is simple. Russian terrorists have kidnapped the children of the leader of Russia. They have demands and if they're not met they blow up a nuclear weapon (in this case using the nuclear waste of Chernobyl to unleash hell). Add that that they also have the latest model of Universal Soldier (played by Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski) it brings the US army into the situation. Things go from bad to worse. So the only hope the good guys have is reactivating the best Uni Sold they got left, Luc Deveraux (Van Damme). Yet just when things seem to be going well for the bad guys, one of them wanting so much more, reactivates a clone of Andrew Scott (Lundgren).
Sure there's a little more going on in the film (the usual ethics on why it's bad bringing Deveraux back into this program, bad guy bickering, and a soldier played by Mike Pyle, sent in for recon and eventually to free the hostages), but that's the story in a nutshell. It's also short and sweet (clocking in around just under ninety minutes).
So why does this film earn such praise from me? Well it helps that the director of this film, John Hyams, did a real good job with the action in this. From the opening seconds to this movie with the heist to it's brutal finale. Nobody will not be disappointed with the action in this. It really surprised me how much sweet looking action got used in this with very little CGI if any. This is a bare bones something that only come out of the late 80s or 90s. So it has that going with it.
Plus Arlovski as the NGU is pretty threatening. We see this dude for most of this movie lay waste to anything that is preventing him from completing his mission. His character reminds me of the Nemesis from the video game Resident Evil 3. If you see him, don't fight just run like hell and hope you can outrace him. The fights he has with several old Uni Solds and US soldiers is absolutely bloody bone breaking fun. When he finally goes mono e mono with Van Damme well at first it lives up to that promise with an utterly crushing move, but then it turns into an alright finish, but I dunno it could have been better.
As for Van Damme himself. Honestly, this is my third favorite Van Damme flick (with Bloodsport being #1 and Hard Target #2). Sure it drops everything from the first sequel with him out, but come on. It sucked, save for Michael Jai White fighting him at the end. Deveraux is just a fish completely out of water here. His time as a Uni Sold just utterly screwing up his psychology. So I utterly buy that plot point. Plus when he goes all Uni Sold once more it just utterly rules. Watching Van Damme just utterly own anything that moved was beauty in itself. Seriously any action nut would have to watch this film just for the ten minutes of Van Damme owning all the bad guys with one clip for assault rifle, gun, and then taking out everything with a knife. Sure in the end, Deveraux is more screwed up then ever before. But hey, if they make a sequel to this film they can fix it then.
The other reason this film should be watched by action fans is the heralded return of Dolph Lundgren. This is a big year for Dolph as he'll be psycho nutjob again in what could possibly be the magnum opus of action films The Expendables (2010). I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I missed Dolph acting as a psycho. His portrayal of Andrew Scott was epic in the original and he's damn fine again here. Sure he only appears ten whole minutes of the film, but the anticipation and presence of Scott is laid throughout the first two acts before he's unleashed in the climax. I will say this is a more withdrawn version of Scott, but you could tell during his final minutes of screen time in this the old Scott was slowly bubbling back to the surface. If Deveraux hadn't found him, I'm sure most of the people in that camp would made a nice ear necklace for Scott.
As for the fight between Van Damme and Lundgren. Well it isn't as epic as it was in the original movie, but it's a damn worthy successor to it. The fight between them is brutal-like hell, and showing both still have some flicker of life in them. Sure there's no raw emotion given Deveraux is all drugged up as a Uni Sold, but it's Lundgren who has the more “human” performance here. Scott literally is the person trying to regain his lost humanity (ok what made him special since technically the dude was a madman). Thus slowly in each scene he's in, Scott is regaining his rebellion and former self. It's a nice role reversal, but really there should have been more emotion to this fight. Alas it's all lost here. Still the brawl between the two is still very awesome and that with the Van Damme parade of ownage before it is worth watching this film alone.
The bit players around this film are also fun to watch. Sure the dude who plays the bad guy doctor who upgraded Scott and created NGU hams it up, but there's so much fun payoff to the character that I enjoyed it so much when he got his just deserts. The same goes for the other bad guy in this who I swear played the villain in a season of 24 but I can't just place it yet. His whole talk with his hostages was a nice little piece, before the other villain and him have a talk on who's really in control of this situation. There's also the dude who played Henry Van Statten from Doctor Who (aka he was in the episode Dalek) who plays a US commanding officer and does what he can with the part to make things interesting.
Then there's Mike Pyle who truthfully is sort of the star of this film since he has the most screen time in the film. Compared to the other action stars yeah he sort of fades into the background. Plus his acting is serviceable at best. He just does his job as the one dimensional soldier who tries to be all he can be in his mission of recon and later rescue. I will admit that you do end of feeling sorry for the dude when he runs into NGU. But really that's all I kinda do. It's also surprising and yet not surprising what happens to the dude at the end of the film.
And really that's what pretty much is the real downer of this film. This film ain't pretty at all. It's a real bleak film and it keeps getting darker. Those hoping for something light in tone like some sort of humanity piece here you won't find it. I know I get the point that the Uni Solds feel absolutely no emotion whatsoever, but I dunno some could have made the film better especially when Scott and Deveraux go at it again.
Still, on the absolute whole this film was pretty entertaining. I honestly can say the positives outweighed the negatives to this. Lundgren and Van Damme brought their best games to the film and Arlovski was a real sweet menacing opponent to Van Damme as well. If anything, this film show's that the director of this film knows how to make some good honest old fashion action without much CGI. That alone for me make's this film a nice watch. To hear that the same people behind this (plus Lundgren and Van Damme) are returning for a fourth Universal Soldier film, I freely admit I cannot wait for that.
3.5 out of 5