Universal Soldier: Regeneration Review

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With terrorists threatening to unleash nuclear catastrophe, peace-loving nations respond the only way they can - by unleashing Universal Soldier Luc Deveraux.


God knows what batteries it’s running on, but Universal Soldier is one of those franchises that just keeps on going while nobody’s looking. Part III co-starred Burt Reynolds. Part IV saw Jean-Claude Van Damme kickboxing the lid off a supercomputer. This is the fifth. In theory, it should have Steve Guttenberg punching a toaster.

Part reunion, part reboot, Regeneration lives up to its name by rematching Van Damme against his original, cereal box-jawed nemesis, Dolph Lundgren, dragging a ton of retro-action baggage with them. If you’re pining for the days when bad guys got deaded on industrial hooks and gratuitous gunfire turned the soundtrack to bubblewrap, this delivers all the old-school action nastiness in a way that’s both monolithically crummy and grimly intense.

Actually, it’s a bit of a cheat — you expect a versus movie, but both stars are AWOL for long stretches. Dolph, as a weirdly sympathetic
FrankenSoldier, gets 15 minutes; Van Damme shows up to foil a terrorist nuke halfway through. Filling the gap is formidable walking fist Andrei Arlovski as a next-gen UniSol with a penchant for punching heads until they explode. Arlovski’s a former Ultimate Fighting champ, and it’s his blunt aggression that styles the smackdowns.

Director John Hyams has a tin ear for direlogue (“Deceased? As in, DEAD?”), but a sharp eye for action, shooting a surge of stunts wide and clear. He even comes close to a coup with an audacious one-take Van Damme stalk-and-destroy sequence. A total trashfest it may well be, but for a series looked on as a Maplins Terminator, it’s indecently entertaining.

An indecently entertaining trashfest.