A decade after the previous Universal Soldier movie, this sequel came along to surprise action film fans. Van Damme is Luc Deveraux again, and Dolph Lundgren is also somehow able to return as Andrew Scott (which may surprise people who remember the state of him at the end of the first film).
The plot sees a group of terrorists kidnapping the children of the Ukrainian Prime Minister and holding them hostage in the middle of Chernobyl. There's also a bomb set to detonate. And a tough, new, UniSol (played by Andrei Arlovski). Desperate times call for desperate measures, which explains why other Universal Soldiers are sent in to try and save the hostages. Some are ready for action, Andrew Scott (Lundgren) is always spoiling for a fight, but Luc Deveraux has spent years being deprogrammed, rendering him fairly useless unless the process can be reversed in time.
Directed by John Hyams (who is rarely mentioned without it also being disclosed that he is the son of Peter Hyams, most relevant here as his father gave Van Damme some of his best work), Universal Soldier: Regeneration reboots the series in an interesting way. It removes the glossiness and lighter tone that the first movie had, replacing those things with grit and lashings of ultraviolence. You still get moments that feel fun, they're just different kinds of fun.
Writer Victor Ostrovsky wisely decides to ignore the previous instalment, which also wisely ignored the two awful TV movies that came out in 1998, and instead simply throws viewers into a world that still has a working UniSol program, one that has naturally progressed from the science on display in the first film.
Although playing a different version of his character from the first film, Van Damme does well in the lead role. He spends less time in a mindless state, thinking his way around the confrontations ahead even more than he did in either of the previous movies. Lundgren is a lot of fun again, and his character hews slightly closer to how he played him the first time around (tough, persistent, and not entirely mentally stable), and Arlovski is good enough in the role of the main villain. He's not the most charismatic of people but he definitely emanates menace and brings the right physicality to the role.
A lot of people now think that this film, and the sequel, ends up bettering the first film. I disagree. It's an excellent action movie, and even more enjoyable as a proper return to form for JCVD, but it doesn't match the first for the mix of action, characters, interesting ideas, and humour.
This is a good way to own the series.
Americans can buy the blu here.