Yes folks, Van Damme has returned for a rematch with none other than Dolph Lundgren, and UFC Heavyweight Andrei Arlovski along to help in the ass kickery! There’ve been many talks about “going back to the well” long after it’s dry, but recent attempts (like Rocky Balboa and Rambo) by aging action superstars have proved surprisingly good, and Van Damme’s recent JCVD, while overrated, was worth the watch.
Of course, now we’re talking about Univeral Soldier, a franchise which, really, was never that good. The original is definitely a guilty pleasure, followed by some JCVD-less straight to video sequels (which I never saw), and an abysmal theatrical sequel with Bill Goldberg. Universal Soldier: Regeneration is due out February 2nd on DVD and Blu-Ray, and features the return of both Van Damme and original villain Dolph Lundgren, under the direction of John Hyams, son of Peter Hyams (The Relic, End of Days).
Does Regeneration capture the guilty pleasure aspect that made the original so enjoyable? Find out after the jump!
Universal Soldier: Regeneration has about as much story as a 1990’s video game. I can pretty much wrap up the entire movie in the following three sentences. Terrorists take over a nuclear facility. Government reactivates Van Damme. Van Damme kills everybody and movie is over. Seriously – that’s about as complicated as the movie’s storyline gets.
While I was absolutely impressed at the action sequences in Regeneration, the lack of a storyline makes this purely DVD fare. There is no reference to the original Universal Soldier, or any of the sequels. There’s no explanation of the return of Lundgren’s character (his body was definitely not intact at the end of the original), Van Damme’s character says about ten words throughout the entire movie, and there’s pretty much no character arc for any of the characters. Van Damme is trying to reform under therapy, and then they reactivate him, and that’s the state he’s in at the end of the film.
The biggest dissapointment is that there’s no acknoledgement of Van Damme and Lundgren’s characters even knowing each other. For all intents and purposes, this film could have been a brand new series entirely. There is a resolution to the danger in the film, but there’s no real resolution to the overall storyline. Ultimately, the film feels like an hour and thirty minutes of action with ten minutes of story thrown in to piece it all together.
Speaking of that action, though, is where we get to what truly makes this film shine. The action in this film is absolutely amazing for a DTV, and easily theatrical quality. This is definitely big screen quality action – Van Damme, Lundgren, and Arlovski are all incredibly badass. As soon as Van Damme is re-activated as a UniSol, you may as well strap in, because it’s non-stop jaw-dropping action until the minute the film ends. When he does battle with the villain UniSols, you get some fantastic fighting and choreography. There are great action sequences, tons of explosions, and some great “holy sh*t” moments that are absolutely worth dealing with the lack of a coherent storyline.
So is the juice worth the squeeze? If you like huge action, then hell yes. If you’re looking for a satisfying follow up to the storylines set up in any of the previous Universal Soldier movies, not so much.