Universal Soldier: Regeneration
is a rare sequel that far outstrips the original. A small terrorist group seizes the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, threatening to release a toxic cloud. A military squad is sent in--and decimated by a new and more lethal "UniSol" (played by former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski). Desperate, the American military forces the decommissioned UniSol Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to revert back to a killing machine--even though the consequences to his damaged psyche could be severe… and dangerous. But the standard plot isn't what makes Universal Soldier: Regeneration
so much better than its predecessors (incidentally, you don't need to see the earlier films to enjoy this one). The movie looks better (thanks in large part to superb cinematography by Peter Hyams, who directed Van Damme in Timecop
); the script is skillfully written, with well-drawn characters and dialogue that actually sounds like human beings speaking; and the fighting, rather than being absurdly spectacular, is gritty and brutal--director John Hyams (Peter's son) has made documentaries about mixed martial arts fighters and clearly understands that real combat isn't about backflips and whirling kicks but vicious hitting. Van Damme has always had an odd vulnerability; he's a soulful action hero, and this sense of inner sadness lends a strange gravity to the stakes. Dolph Lundgren, who also repeats his previous role as a malevolent UniSol, gives a brief but unnerving performance. Universal Soldier: Regeneration
is a gripping action thriller that sneaks in moral ambiguity and stealthy questions about free will--all in all, an unexpected and welcome pleasure. --Bret Fetzer
With stolen top-secret technology, terrorists have created a next-generation Universal Soldier - an elite fighter genetically altered into a programmable killing machine. With this "UniSol" (Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski) leading the way, they seize the crippled Chernobyl nuclear reactor, threatening to unleash a lethal radioactive cloud. The only one who can stop them is Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a UniSol who's been decommissioned for years. Reactivated and retrained, Deveraux must make a full-out assault on the heavily armed fortress. But inside, he'll discover not one but two of these virtually indestructible warriors. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), Deveraux's vicious UniSol enemy from the original Universal Soldier, has been secretly reanimated and upgraded. Now, these elite fighters are locked, loaded and programmed to kill; and the fate of millions hinges on this high-action showdown.