Thursday, February 4, 2010

Universal Soldier: Regeneration - 3.5/5

Now that we have two completely different franchises on our hands that are both 'sequels' to the original "Universal Solider", sometimes I find it hard to keep track of what the fuck is actually going on. In fact, none of the sequels really made sense as follow-ups to the kick ass original...until this one.

Even the 'official' sequel, "Universal Soldier: The Return" was way too ridiculous for its own good (although I do have guilty pleasure in watching it), this one truly feels like a good follow up. It takes the darker and grittier parts of the series and expands on them almost to the point that its hard to call this an action movie. Which is both a blessing and a curse for "Regeneration".

Van Damme returns in the role of Luc as he enters a rehabilitation clinic to see if there is any humanity left in him to save. Unfortunately, he is thrown back into the system when a group of terrorists seize Chernobyl and threaten to unleash the radioactive build up there. The reason they need Luc back? These terrorists have a new generation of Unisol (as played by MMA badass Andrei Arlovski) that can decimate an entire army on his own if need be. Not to mention that these terrorists also have a fail safe in the form of Andrew...aka Dolph Fuckin Lundgren reprising his role from the original.

The director and film team must have looked at that synopsis and said, 'damn this could be way too over the top and we might make another "Return". Let's take it down and make it as realistic as possible'. It was a ballsy move to tone down the series, make it darker, heavier, and far more realistic and it paid off. This one just feels more depressing and gritty. At times it feels almost too un-action like with its droning score and slow burn build, but the last 20 minutes pays for most of it.

Which is the best part of "Regeneration". The choreography and final 20 minutes where Van Damme goes in just simply rocks. Although I question the limited involvement and impact of Lundgren's role in the film, the fights are fucking incredible. Seeing Van Damme and Lundgren throw each other around again brings me an immense amount of joy and the clever combination of Van Damme's martial arts training and Arlovski's brutal MMA style is pretty sick. This is definitely the highlight of this film.

The ending was somewhat of a piss off moment though, as it just sort of ends and has no real falling action. It almost seems like it wanted to throw a 'to be continued' credit in there for good measure. Which would have been ridiculous. For warning though, it did kind of ruin a chuck of the film that I liked.

Overall, I was massively impressed with "Regeneration". It does have its flaws: an odd ending, slow first half, and boring score - but the nostalgia and excitement of the last 20 minutes makes up for most of it. I hope the continue on with the franchise...well, official franchise after this. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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