Saturday, May 28, 2011

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (Pay attention Steven Seagal!)

In no way, shape or form should UNIVERSAL SOLDIER part WHATEVER be this good.  It's a direct-to-DVD low budget movie filmed in Bulgaria or Romania or YOUR BUTT.  The movie has this "we wanted Steven Seagal but he passed so we settled with Van Damme and changed the title to UNIVERSAL SOLDIER" feel to it.  Similar to most Seagal films in the last twenty years USR gives little screen time to the main stars.  Instead alot of scenes deal with the secondary characters walking around talking and looking at stuff until the end when Van Damme appears and causes all kinds of badassness.  But this movie works and is even better than the original UNIVERSAL SOLDIER which was just okay.  How is that possible?  One word.  Talent.

A direct-to-DVD Seagal movie would consist mostly of secondary characters running around getting into car chases or sitting in rooms talking with occasionally Seagal popping up to say something incoherent (and sometimes in a bad old man voice dub) or play slap-happy with a goon or two.  The movies have all kinds of different uninteresting stories going on and you really don't care.  You want to see Seagal kick everyone's ass and that's it.  His latest movies are poorly put together with little effort spent on story, characters, cinematography, action and direction along with a whole slew of other things that go into making movies.  The producers of these films bank everything solely on the popularity of the main star Steven Seagal.  Idiots like me walk around and see the cover and say "Wow! Seagal really looks mean on the cover of this one AND he's holding a pistol like he's about to shoot somebody.  Maybe this time this will be a good one."  We fall for it every time.  That's how these movies make profit. 

Now look at UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION.  Just the very beginning of the film starts off with a thrilling car chase with gunfire and people getting all shot to pieces.  It sucks you in and you realize that this movie is going to be something special. As the movie goes on, however, you become concerned because Van Damme is barely in this movie.  He's almost a supporting character rather than the main star.  But the secondary characters are so well acted that they become interesting.  Take for example the rogue scientist that sells his work to the highest bidder.  He is a little smart ass unafraid of pissing off the large armed men around him including the bad guy in charge.  What a great actor he is and we will probably never see him in anything ever again.  You could have a whole movie based around him and it would be quite enjoyable.  The acting is good all the way around.  I don't think there are any typical cheesy one liners.  The movie takes the story seriously. 

The action is plentiful and well choreographed.  The director knows how to film a fight scene.  There isn't the shaky cam with extreme close ups of every move.  The ending with Van Damme killing a hundred guys at once is something we all have wanted to see since CYBORG.  This movie does Van Damme justice allowing him to be a simple character with a complex inner struggle to fit in with society after being resurrected from the dead.  Thankfully the movie doesn't spend too much time on that aspect.  But I will say that the older Van Damme gets the better of an actor he gets.  Watch JCVD for a better example.

My only real complaint about REGENERATION is the little screen time Dolph Lundgren has in the film.  I almost wish they didn't let us know he was in the film so we would be surprised to see him make an appearance at the end.  In a way the advertising of VAN DAMME  VS. LUNDGREN reminds me of like an old Universal studios monster movie like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN.  The monsters barely meet and don't really fight at all.  At least Van Damme's fight with Dolph is a good one.  I don't want to spoil it.  The movie is pretty vague in terms of what kind of sequel it is.  I believe it throws out RETURN all together and barely mentions anything from the very first UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.  In fact you could make the argument that this movie is a reboot to the franchise.  The only thing getting in the way of that argument is the cloned Lundgren telling Van Damme that "all this seems familiar."  When the two meet Dolph has a boy and a girl (who Van Damme was sent in to save) in a corner getting ready to kill them.  The room is lit by flames (I think) giving the setting a similar look like the burning village from Vietnam where Van Damme and Dolph first fought and killed each other.  Pretty cool, huh?

REGENERATION puts all the money on the screen.  The direction and cinematography are great.  You can see great care put into every scene.  The bleak grey colors that dominate the entire movie never become an eyesore.  This movie in terms of resources is probably just as expensive as most direct-to-video movies are.  Why can't they all put as much effort into their schlock as the makers of REGENERATION do.  If you are going to make an action movie or an horror movie or whatever make it the best damn whatever you can.  Put everything you got and then some into making it the best ever.  Otherwise go back to making amateur porn with your not so hot girlfriend that's into anime and Pokemon cards.  Please don't show it to us.  We don't care.


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