By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I reviewed Universal Soldier last week, but the entire reason I was interested was that I heard some of the finest action filming today is happening in John Hyams’s contemporary sequels.
This film is a direct sequel to the original, conveniently ignoring the three godawful 90s sequels. An Eastern European separatist movement kidnaps the children of the Prime Minister of Russia and occupy Chernobyl, threatening to blow it up and create a massive fallout zone if he doesn’t release political prisoners and grant them independence. The Universal Soldiers are called in, but unfortunately a mercenary scientist has donated his superior model to the other side, and it looks like there’s only one hope to stop him…
Let’s get right to it. The action is every bit as good as advertised. Hyams has serious action directing chops, mixing perspectives and cameras, even handheld, while maintaining a strong sense of geography. It’s shaky cam that legitimately puts you in the action, instead of just serving as a PG-13 crutch. Oh, and his long take in the apartment building is straight up bad ass.
Meanwhile, Olivier Megaton is still getting work…
The cast really brings it as well. MMA fighter Andrei Arlovski is an absolute beast, and easily acceptable as a mindless rampaging machine. The old dudes, though, haven’t lost a step, as JCVD matches up way too well against this human steamroller who he is old enough to be the father of. Supermild Spoiler Alert: Dolph Lundgren also shows up, and I think his age has only made him more grizzled and unpredictable yet just as massive.
The latter two even get some surprising dramatic moments, as this film is far more serious-minded than its predecessor, and more interested in (although certainly not focused on) the psychological and moral questions creating resurrected supersoldiers provokes as well as the costs and consequences of violence.
This is still a Direct to DVD actioner, so don’t expect The Hurt Locker or anything. It’s chock full of Russian baddies, evil scientists, and U.S. soldiers being called into every conflict on the globe, because…?
Half of the reason I enjoyed the first one so much was JCVD’s comic chops, but this film is as humorless as it could be. A little bit more levity woulda been nice. Also, as well shot as this was, the color scheme is the same terrible blue filtered, washed-out crap all of these movies use. I hope the next one gets more creative here.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a respectable sequel, a fine entry in the action film genre, and a calling card announcing Peter Hyams as one of the more interesting action directors working today.
Take a Drink: whenever someone sustains impossible damage and keeps walking
Take a Drink: whenever someone takes pain without flinching
Take a Drink: for references to the original
Do a Shot: for blood spraying on a face