UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION
None of the Universal Soldier films are particularly good. That said, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is the best of the sequels. With the premise of the series being so limited, the franchise has straggled by solely on familiarity with the original where the subsequent entries have offered almost nothing in terms of new ideas indeed, at least until the subsequent film (see below), all the Universal Soldier sequels seem stuck with the clunky problem of how to continue the story and resort to either having Luc Devereaux on the run or up against new villains, even though he was struggling to be little more than a zombie in the first film. At least Regeneration has the most credible premise and gives us scenes with Luc Devereaux undergoing rehabilitation to act as a normal human being again before he is called back into action. On the other hand, the reintroduction of Dolph Lundgren feels awkwardly grafted on, as though the filmmakers had started shooting without having completed negotiations with his agent and then suddenly had to find a way to squeeze him in after the script had been finalised.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration comes from John Hyams, the son of Peter Hyams, the noted genre director of films like Capricorn One (1978), Outland (1981), 2010 (1984), Stay Tuned (1992), the previous Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Timecop (1994), The Relic (1997), End of Days (1999) and A Sound of Thunder (2005), as well as sundry action films, including also Sudden Death (1995) with Van Damme. Peter is known in his earlier works for wearing multiple creative hats and signs on here as Johns cinematographer, the first time he has shot someone elses film. John had previously made the film One Dog Day (1997) and a couple of feature-length sports documentaries.
John Hyams returns to the same tough, brutal action stylism that Roland Emmmerich displayed on the first film, something that was watered down in the subsequent entries. The opening sequence bodes well a full tilt, brutally tough car chase amid much in the way of gunfire and collateral damage with little mercy shown to anyone in the way. It certainly bodes well for the rest of the film, which John Hyams maintains in a similarly violent manner. The drawback of Universal Soldier: Regeneration is eventually that it only ever consists of brutal bloody action scenes, fierce gunplay, stabbings, guttings and heads punched in. John Hyams certainly holds no punches but the repetitiveness of it eventually tires.
Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren were both coming into their mutual ascendancy as stars when Universal Soldier came out. Subsequently, Van Damme spent his time perfecting martial arts moves, while Lundgren noticeably learned how to act. Here Van Damme is his usual blank, gloopy screen presence but is starting to show his age and looks flabbily phlegmatic. Van Damme is entirely out-acted by Dolph Lundgren who aces the film despite getting half of Van Dammes screen time. Lundgren plays with a cold lethality and the single scene where he turns on and kills his creator is the best in the film.
John Hyams went onto make the even more fascinating Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012), also featuring return performances from Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.