Universal Soldier: Regeneration Review

Everyone used to believe Dirty Harry was the ultimate bad ass, a man’s man if you will. Then came Rambo, and he took over the reigns. Then comes the Terminator, a mixture of man and machine, blasted with guns, and run over with cars, yet still unable to be stopped.

Pfft. This is 2010. You are no longer a bad ass unless you come back to life after being sent through a wood chipper. That is the new Webster’s definition of bad ass, with a picture of Dolph Lundgren right next to it.

Despite being over 50, Lundgren proves he can still hang in the action genre, pummeling Jean Claude Van Damme as they re-ignite their feud from the original Universal Soldier, which yes, originally ended in a wood chipper. It is a shame their brawl is so brief, but the film seems to be handing the franchise off to UFC fighter Andre Arlovski, so he dominates the majority of the Soldier’s screen time.

Shot directly for video, John Hyams does what he can with a limited budget, disguising the restrictions well. The opening action sequence is spectacular, with high energy, intensity, and fantastic stunt work. A master shot later as Van Damme storms a building is equally outstanding.

As with any direct-to-video sequel, Regeneration can be sluggish, killing time between hefty, gory action. An intriguing premise has Van Damme’s Luc Deveraux being rehabilitated for regular civilian life by a psychiatrist, but the actual mental status seems only briefly touched upon.

Besides, no one walks into a Universal Soldier sequel expecting deeply involved psychiatric evaluations. Thankfully, the campy tone of the original film is gone, replaced with a surprisingly grim, darker edge. Even a homage to the first film, with Lundgren and Van Damme smashing each other through walls in their climatic battle, comes off as hard edged and as realistic as two cyborgs beating each other up can be. Regneration is fun when utilizing its energy, and enjoyable for the mindless action.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Regeneration was filmed digitally, undoubtedly due to the cheaper costs, with the Red One. It carries the expected pitfalls of digital filmmaking, from the weak, miniscule blacks to the processed and digital faces. An odd shot at 22:39 suffers from significant aliasing, and banding is a sporadic problem, most notable against some truck lights at 12:50.

In terms of color, Regeneration could have been called Red vs. Orange, and no one would have questioned why. The bright blues of the military sequences, especially appropriate for the cold exteriors of the supposed Chernobyl, look fine. Scenes with the rebels take on a warm, orange tint. Flesh tones take the hues of the scenery.

The initial shot of the movie inside a museum suffers from significant ringing around the high contrast edges, a problem that thankfully disappears for the rest of the running time. Highlights are typically blown out, although like digital filmmaking itself, are made up of pure, clear, bright whites. Noise is not a problem. A few scenes told in flashback take on an overblown, harsh film look, obviously part of the source.

Regeneration’s AVC encode from Sony does deliver some outstanding environments. Establishing shots of the facility being taken over by terrorists, especially at 6:55, show superb definition. Inside, rusted walls, chipping paint, water damage, and other aging are wonderful in their ability to showcase the detail. Laboratory scenes are littered with machines and other utensils, all defined and individually visible.

It is a shame facial detail does not impress regularly. Some shots, especially after Arlovski lies down on the “work bench,” are reference, resolving every pore, scar, and bead of sweat. As the camera pans out, all of that disappears. That familiar digital smoothness takes over, although not offensively so. It is simply the nature of the beast.

Video ★★★★☆ 

The opening shootout, a chase through the streets as masked gunmen fire on local police, is overbearing on the low-end, wiping out everything else in the mix. A car flips over and does not even carry half of the exaggerated impact of the guns. Sure, it’s clean bass, but overpowering.

Thankfully, that clears up, and some of the gunfire does not have any weight to it at all. Explosions thankfully remain beefy, delivering solid force. Debris nicely scatters into the surrounds, and if you ever wanted to hear someone have their brains blown out only to splatter behind you, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

Dialogue is fine, even behind the intensity of the action. Shattering glass is exceptionally clear. The movie’s final explosion comes off as hot on the high end, although most will not likely notice. A bit of ambient audio is heard inside the control room, general chatter filling the soundfield effectively.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A commentary features director John Hyams and Dolph Lundgren, followed by Behind the Lines, a standard making-of. Trailers and Sony’s usual splash page on BD-Live (with MovieIQ) are included as well.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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