There was a brief period after Wrong Bet aka Lionheart and Bloodsport came out when Van Damme mania was at its highest and they tried to maximise this by churning out as many films as possible. Don’t worry it didn’t last long.
The original Universal Soldier – to me at least – signified the beginning of the extremely drawn out end. It took a vaguely intriguing concept and wasted it by taking every short cut and turning the film into a sub-B movie shlockfest.
Teenage boys probably loved it, brain-dead guys who like seeing shit blown up good probably loved it. I thought it was crap.
But whaddya know enough people watched it to justify a sequel which was even worse, and I think even more sequels followed, none that I watched.
Then some 20 years later here I am in the video shop needing one more DVD to complete my 3 for $10 deal and what do I see?
Perhaps it was due to frustration at the lack of good titles on the shelf, perhaps it was a brain fade, perhaps it was a simple mental trigger that conjured up memories of classic Van Damme.
In any case whatever it was here we are.
A pretty effective opening gets us right into the action. The children of a high-up are kidnapped in a hail of buwets that kill many innocent bystanders (are there ever any guilty bystanders? Felons and criminals that just like standing around watching things happen around them?). A long car chase ends when the getaway car reaches “da-choppa” – as Arnie would say – and off they go.
The scene is perhaps 10 minutes, totally dialogue free and works very well.
Promising so far.
It turns out that the kidnappers are bad guy terrorists who have set up base camp in Chernobyl and are threatening to set off a bomb that will release all the pent-up radiation trapped since the 80s meltdown.
(Now logic says that the threat of another nuclear meltdown would be enough to demand attention from the government and that kidnapping the kids of a dignitary is a little redundant and unnecessary; but if there is one thing that action movies have taught us over the years it is that you can’t rescue a bomb.)
The first Universal Soldier introduced the concept of super-soldiers created from reanimated corpses. They were largely immune to most deadly situations and immensely efficient in both firepower and manpower, as one soldier could do the job of dozens – you didn’t even have to pay them! Of course that wasn’t enough for a movie so they made one go haywire (Dolph Lundgren) and had Van-Damme have to hunt him down and save the day.
In this “reality” Unisols as they became know have been banned for decades, however a rogue scientist with delusions of magnificence has been secretly redesigning a new and improved Unisol.
The Unisol to end all Unisols.
The terrorists have hired the evil scientist and his creation to provide the muscle for their operation, and we see chilling evidence of the new Super-Sol’s efficiency and abilities when the base is attacked by the army.
So Plan B = Fight fire with fire. Four of the old-school Unisols are thawed out to defeat the Big Fucker – and he is a Big Fucker indeed, the new guy – let’s call him Larry – toasts the other 4 in about 7 minutes in a variety of brutal and violent ways. Advantage : Naughty guys.
But wait there’s one more…
The only remaining Unisol is the still thawed out Van Damme who they have tried to reintegrate back into society with mixed results – if the definition of mixed results include the death of a simple coffee shop worker.
The guy has a name but let’s call him JCVD from here. He is retrained and unleashed on the scene to save the day and kill the bad guys, mainly Larry.
Only that ain’t all folks. The scientist has kept another weapon up his sleeve…
In the end it was always inevitable that JCVD would take on the bad guys for all the bikkies, otherwise why is he on the DVD cover. The addition of the kids provides a “human” element to the film which was really not required. Isn’t big muscly guys punching piss out of each other reward enough?
There are some good long combat scenes and thankfully they manage to make it look like two beefy guys with almost superpowers going at it, rather than two guys on wires clumsily pawing at each other. The punches and kicks seem to have real impact and there were a few blows that made the lips purse together in an “ow that musta hurt” way.
All in all Universal Soldier: Regeneration is solid B movie “weekly-rental” fare, for guys aged 16 – 39 at least, the inclusions of Van Damme and a Lundgren cameo aren’t likely to get you misty eyed but they don’t hurt either, and the big Larry Unisol is legitimately fearsome and capable as the dead-eyed robotic bad guy.
I had low expectations from the point I pressed play, this met all of them and exceeded a few. If the film was an employee this might not put the guy in line for promotion, but he is definitely carrying his weight.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. An efficient low budget shoot-em-up that is as entertaining as it could be considering the limitations of the material and the team behind it.