Universal Soldier: Regeneration
One of the movies I've been looking forward to most in recent months has been the highly anticipated sequel to the original 1992 box office hit, Universal Soldier. The first film was a classic onscreen pairing between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in one of the most commercially successful films of both stars' careers. The film stands today as a cult classic so after a handful of less successful follow-ups (including Van Damme's Universal Soldier: The Return and two Made-for-TV sequels starring Matt Battaglia) the idea of yet another sequel presented a mixed bag of possibilities (by the way, you don't need to see the other sequels before this). Released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 5 April 2010, I was pleased to receive my pre-order copy two days early.
Starring former UFC heavyweight champ, Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski, alongside Van Damme and Lundgren, Universal Soldier: Regeneration takes the franchise in a whole new, darker direction courtesey of director, John Hyams (son of director and Van Damme collaborator, Peter Hyams). With fantastic grainy cinematography, hauntingly atmospheric music and brutal, Bourne-style action choreography, this film gives the series a much needed boost for the 21st century and demonstrates, once again, the talent of John Hyams after the success of his MMA documentary, The Smashing Machine. He did a fantastic job here and hopefully we'll see more of his work very soon.
Being a long-time fan of the 1992 original and all the stars involved, I was genuinely excited about Regeneration and I believe it delivered on virtually every front. The major criticisms I've read seem to be that, firstly, Van Damme and Lundgren aren't in it enough (I agree to an extent but Van Damme still stands as the main protagonist against Arlovski's NGU) and the second major complaint being that there isn't enough old-skool style fighting (in other words, roundhouse kicks). Lets remember the whole tone of the film is different. This is a down and dirty, leaner, meaner story where the action looks far more real. Plus with the MMA presence (alongside Hyams' and Arlovski's involvement, the film co-stars MMA fighter Mike Pyle), the style of action is altogether different from what we're used to in this series. Trust me, this is a good thing and the action is satisfying and wholly impressive in an entirely new way.