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Universal Soldier: Regeneration

Year: 2009
Production Co: Foresight Unlimited
Director: John Hyams
Writer: Victor Ostrovsky
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren

You'll be thinking the same thing I was – 'straight to video crap'. Half right. This was actually such a well-made action movie in many ways it surpassed even Roland Emmerich's 1992 original.

A terrorist group has taken the children of the Russian president hostage and spirited them away to their hideout in the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The ringleader has retained the services of a rogue scientist who used to work for the official Universal Soldier project, and has now created a virtually indestructible specimen to guard the operation.

The good guys still have some Unisols on ice, but they – and the regular soldiers sent in to try and bust the place up – are no match for the fearsome new model.

The brass soon realise they no choice but to put the original model – Luc Devereaux (Van Damme), who's still the strongest – back in action. The trouble is, Luc's undergoing counselling by a sympathetic psychological to bring him fully back to humanity. And she's none too happy about his fate when they figure out they'll have to inject him with enough strong/angry drugs to wipe out all the progress she's made and turn him into an automaton again.

In an aside that feels like an unnecessary subplot on reflection but somehow works, the rogue general is keeping another original on ice, Andrew Scott (Lundgren), who won't do what he's told and wreaks the wrong kind of havoc when he wakes up.

Director Hyams (son of movie legend Peter) does a great job with the militaristic hardware and general soldiering. He doesn't scrimp on the violence and bloodshed or tone things down for a PG rating. The fight choreography seems both balletic and rough and everything feels so very real, to the extent the villainous Unisol is truly scary. The film makes much better use of the setting and characters than the genre does usually, and it shows many far higher profile action flicks of today how it's done.

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