For the few of you who are unfamiliar with the “Universal Soldier” franchise (shame on you) let me bring you up to speed. So the story goes two badass soldiers die in Vietnam, and the US military (in their infinite wisdom) decides to use the dead bodies to create an army of unstoppable (though brain-dead) killing machines. Luc Deveraux (JCVD) and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are the first two “UniSols” created to combat terrorist threats. The situation eventually evolves into good Unisol vs. bad UniSol when Deveraux begins to remember his past life, and Scott attempts to stomp Deveraux out of existence. Then Luc Deveraux returned for the 1999 flop, “Universal Soldier: The Return.” This was a terrible movie and most likely the reason you haven’t seen “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” yet. Well friends, when it comes to “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” let me tell you this: last night I dreamed that I punched a man to death. A man head-butted me, and I punched him in the face until he was dead. This was no coincidence. Universal Soldier: Regeneration, you made your point.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration begins with an awesome kidnapping heist. Masked men armed with automatic weapons rush into a museum and nab the son and daughter of the Russian president. Then there is a phenomenal car chase scene, and a daring escape via a helicopter. The action kicks in at about the 30 second mark and never stops. As it turns out, the presidents kids were kidnapped by the leader of a rebel group seeking to secede from Russia. To show that they mean business, the rebels have occupied Chernobyl and rigged the nuclear power plant with enough explosives to create a blast 100 times larger than that of Hiroshima. As if things weren’t bad enough, the rebels also have UniSols, in the form of Dolph Lundgren and Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. Holy shit! Did you click on that link? Did you see that guy? I bet it’s going to take some sort of one man army to stop these fellas.
Not long into the movie it’s revealed that Luc Deveraux (remember, from the first movie?) is undergoing some kind of rehab in Switzerland in an effort to prevent his murderous tendencies and help revive his lost memories. Due to this plot device, JCVD spends the first half of the movie out of sight. This might be my chief complaint about this movie if JCVD weren’t consistently kicking the living shit out of people whenever he was on screen. The first taste of JCVD’s martial arts fury comes at the expense of some hapless Swiss towny who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. This scene is terrific and it establishes that Luc Deveraux is an untamable animal who’s eternally hellbent on taking lives. Knowing that old dogs don’t learn new tricks, Deveraux heads off to Chernobyl to put an end to an international nuclear threat, and to stop the evil UniSols once and for all.
Sure, die hard science nerds might argue the logistics of freezing and reanimating corpses, let alone the bodies ability to withstand numerous point-blank gunshot and stab wounds, but I say to hell with those science nerds, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is plain old, action packed, fun. By and large the acting is never too over the top, but director John Hyams wisely decided to keep the focus away from the script, and more on the action. As a result, JCVD, Lundgren, and Arlovski all have minimal lines in the movie, which just maximizes their ability to kick ass. It seems that after 18 years, Hyams finally realized what made the Universal Soldier franchise worth watching. After a brief search online, I found that this movie was made on a 14 million dollar budget. While that may seem like a lot of money, the original was made on a 23 million dollar budget, and those were 1991 dollars. So while the movie never feels like a blockbuster on the scale of Roland Emmerich’s original, it instead manages to feel like a well directed episode of “24” boiled down to all of the action, and this is not a bad thing. As far as JCVD movies go, put Universal Soldier: Regeneration on the top of your Netflix queue (oh, I almost forgot to mention how Dolph Lundgren dies. It involves a pipe and a shotgun and is probably the best death scene I’ve ever witnessed).
I give Universal Soldier: Regeneration: 8 Three Mile Island incidences out of 10 Chernobyl catastrophes