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Universal Soldier: Regeneration(2009)
When a Chechen Islamic extremist threatens the world with another nuclear disaster centered in Chernobyl, Ukraine, futuristic supersoldier Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) leads a team to recapture the power plant and disarm the madman. But when the terrorist turns a clone of Deveraux's old sergeant (Dolph Lundgren) against him, the hero must first take out his old pal. John Hyams directs this installment in the Universal Soldier saga.
For more about Universal Soldier: Regeneration and the Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray release, see Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 23, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski
Director: John Hyams
» See full cast & crew
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray Review
The best in the series earns a solid Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 23, 2010
Something so familiar, I can't explain it.
Dolph Lundgren's character Andrew Scott might be experiencing déjà vu, but viewers familiar with the Universal Soldier franchise will find something remarkably different in Director John Hyams' (son of Director Peter Hyams) Universal Soldier: Regeneration, a film that takes the tired series in a new direction, injects some new life into it, and delivers a slick, well-made, fast-paced, and exciting film, and all in a direct-to-video package. Though the film offers a fairly standard and transparent superficial plot and structure, Universal Soldier: Regeneration keeps a few secrets and surprises tucked neatly away for the film's second half and relentless final act, and while the run-and-gun action and cold, Eastern European/Russian setting aren't new, the film nevertheless works thanks to a no-nonsense approach that trims all the fat off of what makes typically mediocre or subpar DTV Action pictures so terrible and focuses on creating a ballet of action that's supported by a solid and reserved score that both work in harmony to bring to the picture a novel and engaging feel that makes it easily one of the best direct-to-video Action movies in years, if not in the entire history of that medium.
The son and daughter of the Russian Prime Minister have been taken hostage by a group of determined and heavily-armed goons. Led by the son of a prominent General, the kidnappers' demands are simple: the release of 227 political prisoners and freedom for Pasalan, all in 72 hours. Should their demands not be met, they promise to destroy the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and spread radioactive waste across the region. On their side is a lone and highly advanced Universal Soldier, code-named NGU (Andrei Arlovski), who makes quick work of a U.S.-led military operation -- including the elimination of four first-generation Universal Soldiers -- sent in with orders to deal with the rogue UniSol, free the hostages, and end the standoff. As a desperate final measure, Universal Soldier Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Maximum Risk), who has been trying to piece together whatever semblance of a life remains with the help of Doctor Sandra Flemming (Emily Joyce), is reactivated and quickly retrained in hopes of taking down the NGU, but he must first face off against an old foe that's been secretly waiting in the wings to be activated and confront his archenemy one more time.
For a series that seemed primed to continue on with wholly unremarkable and cinematically trivial pictures, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is one of the surprise films of the year, the movie breathing new life into and sparking a renewed interest in a series that wasn't exactly setting the world on fire in the first place but has been, at least for one picture, given a reprieve before being sent on its way to the nether regions of cinematic irrelevance. That's not to say that Universal Soldier: Regeneration is some groundbreaking, must-see, genre-defining picture. It's not. What it is a surprisingly exceptional direct-to-video outing that's far better than either the Universal Soldier series or the DTV market deserves. Director John Hyams has done the remarkable, delivering a film that could have been just another blank face in the crowd and instead fashioning a solid, fun, and exceptionally-crafted ballet of an Action movie that's never pretentious, excessive in over-the-top stunts, or even all that far removed from the realms of probability, at least beyond the overreaching "Universal Soldier" concept. It's the director's ability to frame the picture in a context that removes from the equation any sort of cartoonish or gimmicky feel that plays a major role in the success of the picture. The action is well-done and raw, and the picture is a lean, no-nonsense sort that's certainly something of a novel and refreshing approach to Action, and direct-to-video Action at that.
The return of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren isn't the only key to the film's success. They play rather low-key parts all things considered, but their as-scripted roles in the story add a touch of familiarity to the picture without overwhelming it. This isn't their movie, and it isn't co-star Andrei Arlovski's either; this is John Hyams' movie, for it's his craftsmanship and vision that keep it together, fluid, and highly watchable and entertaining. In addition to Hyams' work, Composers Kris Hill's and Michael Krassner's score isn't of the typical Action movie variety. It's slightly reserved even during more aggressive, almost tribal beats, but it's the quieter, almost surreal and steady haunting tone that falls underneath the action and the sometimes industrial-sounding rhythms that prove strong compliments to the action while adding something of a unique flavor to this sort of picture. Universal Soldier: Regeneration feels much larger than it is, even considering the action is more grounded in reality than in previous entries. The film's most exceptional sequence sees Luc Deveraux dispatching a series of armed enemies with but a knife; the camera follows along as he kills, resets, and springs from nowhere time and again and truly shows the efficiency and lethality of the Universal Soldiers. It's an operatic sequence, a work of art in execution, the direction, choreography, acting, and the unsettling low-key accompanying music making it a standout scene in recent Action movie history. Indeed, the entire picture enjoys similarly smooth and highly effective action pieces, and even though the base elements are fairly generic, the execution makes this picture not only a worthy entry into the Universal Soldier mythos but in the realm of Action movies-at-large.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray, Video Quality
Universal Soldier: Regeneration arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer that's not all that pretty but seems fairly accurate to the source. The film features a predominantly cold, sterile, lifeless appearance, and as such, takes on a rather flat look throughout. Shot digitally with the RedOne camera, the image is smooth and free of heavy noise. Colors other than the abundant shades of gray, blue, and black are hard to come by, but the transfer handles its limited palette professionally and presents each hue accurately. Fine detail is often acceptable but the flat and lifeless image and limited color range makes finding deep, handsome, and textured details a bit hard to come by. Still, the worn-down shooting location standing in for Chernobyl and the industrial landscape does offer some eye candy in terms of chipped paint, broken walls, cracks, rust, dust, random debris, and other maladies associated with abandoned and unkempt locales that do look rather convincing and occasionally even intricately detailed, but otherwise, there's little that's of more than a passing interest to be found. On the down side, there are some shaky, jittery, blurry pans when the camera swoops around; blacks often appear flat and artificially bright; and there's plenty of troublesome banding throughout. Still, Universal Soldier: Regeneration offers a decent all-around transfer considering its dreary and lifeless natural state.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal Soldier: Regeneration features a wake-the-neighbors DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The film's trademark sonic signature comes from the heavy doses of automatic weapons fire; strings of shots rattle and pop with an aggressive, steady, rumbling tone that shakes the soundstage and reverberates through the chest, effectively placing the listener in close proximity to the weapons. Other action-oriented sound effects -- squealing tires and revving engines as heard during the kidnapping scene at the beginning of the film -- offer a crisp and distinct jumble of sonic goodness that's incredibly loud but also nicely precise and wholly engulfing, and like the gunfire, doing well to place the listener in the environment. Other ambient sound effects, such as military radio chatter, are nicely realized and add some dramatic flair and further the sense of realism that the track engenders. Additionally, the low end rumbles with regularity, whether under heavy vehicles or explosions, each and all packing a nice wallop that's a fine compliment to the steady stream of gunfire heard throughout. Speaking of, bullets often zip around the back channels, and while the surround speakers don't offer an excess of head-turning activity, what there is is naturally and precisely implemented. Also featuring clear dialogue reproduction, Universal Soldier: Regeneration makes for another exceptional lossless soundtrack from Sony.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Universal Soldier: Regeneration arrives on Blu-ray with but a pair of extras of note. First up is an audio commentary track with Director John Hyams and Actor Dolph Lundgren. This is an excellent track; both participants acquit themselves wonderfully, speaking with an engaging tone and delivering plenty of interesting and informative stories, speaking on the film's visual style, stunt work, the difficulties of shooting action scenes, their previous work and the benefits and challenges of shooting in Bulgaria, plenty of technical background, and much more. The participants enjoy a solid camaraderie, and the track benefits greatly from the relationship they put forward. Viewers interested in a broad array of behind-the-scenes and personal anecdotes revolving around both Universal Soldier: Regeneration and cinema-at-large should give this one a listen. Behind the Lines (1080p, 18:44) is a solid and in-depth piece that features cast and crew interview clips and behind-the-scenes footage that delve into the progression of the story and the realization of what the final script should feature, the focus on creating a film that offers suspense in addition to action, the participation of veteran actors Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and MMA fighters Andrei Arlovski and Mike Pyle, creating the film's various stunts, the film's themes and approach to the material, its relationship to the previous Universal Soldiers pictures, the film's look and tone, set design, and Director John Hyams' vision and style. Like the commentary, this is a solid piece that's well worth the time. Also included is BD-Live functionality; Sony's MovieIQ connectivity; and 1080p trailers for Black Dynamite, The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day, Armored, The Damned United, Zombieland, The Stepfather, Universal Soldier: The Return, "Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season," and Snatch.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Universal Soldier: Regeneration won't get much play or respect as a direct-to-video release, and that's a shame because it's far better than a lot of films that earn a wide theatrical release. Director John Hyams shows great potential, his sure hand guiding an Action film that's raw, unforgiving, exceptionally shot, and wonderfully choreographed. Universal Soldier: Regeneration is bound to surprise audiences that can look past the stigma of being released to the direct-to-video marketplace; even underneath the onslaught of gunplay and aside from the fact that the picture offers little of thematic relevance, it excels as a straight Action picture thanks to Hyams' ability to set a tone that does away with the usual barrage of goofy side stories or baseless humor in favor of a lean and mean meat-and-potatoes sort of experience that die-hard Action movie fans should take note of. Sony's Blu-ray release does the film justice, the disc sporting a decent 1080p transfer that's generally reflective of the film's bleak tone, a wonderful lossless soundtrack, and a small but nevertheless worthwhile supplemental package. This surprisingly solid DTV picture earns an equally surprising recommendation.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Black Dynamite, Universal Soldier Regeneration BD - November 23, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced two new releases scheduled to launch on Blu-ray on February 2, 2010: the blaxpoitation spoof 'Black Dynamite' and the action/sci-fi movie 'Universal Soldier: Regeneration', starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van ...
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