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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Back in 1992, a then unknown German director by the name of Roland Emmerich was flown in to replace Oscar-winner Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) to make a big-budget action/sci-fi extravaganza featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest muscle-heads, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. The film was Universal Soldier and it would become a smash-hit worldwide and one of the last good films Van Damme and Lundgren would appear in!

TV Movies and a theatrical sequel followed, I’ve not seen them as the negative reviews and crappy trailers kept me away, but what bought me to the third instalment? Or fifth if you include the TV movies?! It’s director, John Hyams. Son of Peter Hyams, the man who gave us The Relic with Tom Sizemore, Time Cop and Sudden Death (the last good Van Damme films!) all of which entertained me greatly as a kid. Seeing as Peter was working on this title as DP boosted my interest.

Two teenagers are kidnapped by a band of mercenaries, it transpires that they are the children of the Russian Prime minister and the groups’ leader is demanding the release of hundreds of political prisoners, if this request is not met within 72 hours then they will kill his children and blow up a nuclear reactor they have secured in Chernobyl. To make matters worse, the terrorists also have a Next-Gen UniSol (UFC badass Andrei Arlovski) in their ranks.

Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) is now living in Switzerland and being rehabilitated to integrate back into society by Doctor Sandra Fleming, it’s a bumpy road to recovery however and he still suffers from violent outbursts. When the NGU wipes out the American army and it’s few remaining UniSol’s, they turn their attention to Luc. Pumping him full of drugs and programming him to get the kid’s, stop the nuke and kill the bad guys, but the bad guys still have a trump card up their sleeves…

To think, eighteen years after the original an impressive sequel to one of 90’s cinemas biggest guilty pleasures would be produced, but its here folks and it sure-as-shit is enjoyable. Brutal, well-paced and excellently choreographed, Regeneration does exactly that; maybe not so much for the Universal Soldier franchise as this pretty much brings the film to a satisfying close, but for all the other 90’s genre films out there that deserve the decent sequel they never got, I’m of course referring to films like Cyborg, Blood Sport, Kick Boxer, Red Scorpion, hell, even Showdown in Little Tokyo! It’s about time these films had worthwhile follow ups.

What comes as a surprise is how mature the movie feels; the original had a disposable, even bubblegum, vibe to the proceedings but this one has a harsh sense of realism from the get go that is a pleasant surprise. Part of this stems from the setting and it grounds the story in an area affected by one of mankind’s worse man-made disasters; it would be disrespectful to have a lightness too the proceedings in an area that has seen some of the darkest days in recent history. It’s this maturity that gives the film a quality not many action films can claim these days, and it’s to the creators merit that the film turned out this good. Don’t let the quick release fool you, this is one of 2010 pleasant surprises and deserves its place on the shelf of any action fan, especially those of Van Damme, Lundgren or mixed martial arts.

Purchase the DVD here or Blu-ray here.

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