"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Vern is shocked how good UNIVERSAL SOLDIER REGENERATION is!!!


“Why me Lord? What have I ever done / That was worth even one / Of the pleasures I’ve known / Tell me Lord, what did I ever do / That was worth loving you / or [Universal Soldier 3].”

–Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me”

Holy shit fellas, I didn’t see this one coming. I was excited about the idea of Van Damme and Lundgren doing a movie together again, but honestly I assumed they (and everybody else) would be phoning it in. Man, was I wrong. There are no phones used at all. This is a masterpiece of DTV.

I mean seriously, how did this happen?

It comes out February 2nd and I can’t wait to discuss it with everybody here after you’ve seen it.

Dear friends,

The screener had been sitting around my apartment for about a month. I was excited that Dolph Lundgren was in it, but didn’t expect much. When I finally got around to putting it in it seemed like the wrong disc. The trailers were for classy foreign films, and the opening was a quiet scene in an art museum. But then ski masked commandos nab a young man and woman and take them on a kill crazy high speed chase through security, police, a road block and away in a helicopter. The lead kidnapper takes massive bullet hits, but doesn’t seem to mind.

Universal Soldier: RegenerationOn the surface you have your usual DTV qualities: masked gunmen from some vaguely defined radical faction, dreary European locations, car crashes, and no sign of the stars on the cover yet. But the weird thing is this is a *great* action sequence. Cameras attached to the cars, putting you right inside the mayhem, you feel like you’re getting knocked around and dragged away but (get this) you can tell exactly what’s going on. It’s fast, brutal and unfashionably comprehensible. It had my heart beating. You don’t expect that in the opening of a DTV action movie or, let’s be honest, any modern American action movie.

The hostages are the children of the Russian premiere, the reason is a fictional political conflict, the threat is that if political prisoners aren’t released the kids will be killed and a bomb will be set off in Chernobyl, spreading radiation all over the place. Where the fuck do the zombie super warriors of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER come in? Well, the rebels have on their hands one NGU (Next Generation UniSol [Universal Soldier]) thanks to a rogue scientist from the UniSol program (Kerry Shale) now working for hire. Theirs is a more powerful model than the old ones and played by former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski.

Unlike most DTV this gets straight to business. The CIA sends in their four remaining UniSols along with American and Russian troops. It’s all very procedural, we see the whole strategy of how the troops are arranged, how they move in, and then we watch The Pitbull single-handedly dismantle their entire team. The fights are raw and brutal – people punched 8-10 times in the face, thrown through walls, covered in blood, expertly knifed or surgically machine gunned. The Pitbull is a legitimately scary Terminator, the fights are perfectly staged and the movie cuts effectively between the breathing and grunting of the fights in quiet Chernobyl and the panicked war room where the military brass shout at each other while watching everything go to hell through the POV of the UniSol eyepieces.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Van Damme is still Luc Devereaux. But he’s in the care of a female psychiatrist (Emily Joyce) in a small town trying to rehabilitate him. He can’t remember who he is, but he can remember yesterday, which is an improvement. Van Damme is in “I actually get to act in this one” mode, a quiet, sad performance more like UNTIL DEATH and JCVD than UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Then he snaps and beats up an old man for looking at him, and he’s more quick and brutally effective than we’ve seen him in a while.

Of course poor Luc is the only one that might stand a chance against The Pitbull, so he gets de-rehabilitated and sent in to clean up this Chernobyl shitstorm. But where does Dolph Lundgren’s character Andrew Scott come in? Dolph gets the least screen time of the guys on the cover, but he’s the most memorable. In part 1 he was a crazy Vietnam war criminal turned evil UniSol turned pile of chopped up meat. Here he’s an upgraded clone grown by the scientist as an insurance policy. A really bad insurance policy, it turns out. There’s something about that Andrew Scott that makes him hard to control. So he follows his own path in life, let’s say.

In this movie Dolph looks like – and basically is – Frankenstein’s monster. A routine diagnostics test where they ask him simple yes and no questions reveals that his mind is working better than it should, but the scientist is too ignorant to understand that’s what’s going on. All three of the NGUs, but especially Dolph, are tragic monsters, not really human anymore but almost able to remember what being human was. I won’t give away his interaction with Van Damme, but what he says to him is haunting, somehow almost poetic. In a UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movie.

Part of the genius of the movie is that it doesn’t try to humanize them more as it goes along. It doesn’t try to explain their history or even mention which war it was they fought in. All that matters is that they’re leftover weapons, unable to be useful in peace time. In fact, the human villains who instigate this conflict die early, and their demands are already met. But the Universal Soldiers continue the war. They don’t know how to shut off. They’re like perpetual war in human shape.

There’s not much that separates the good ones from the bad. All of them are scary. Deveraux happens to be the one that fights against the bad guys – unless you’re that old man. Or his psychiatrist. Or unlucky. At the end you’re glad he wins (SPOILER) but you’re not sure if he’s really on your side.

The characters are just right – they’re not real developed, but they don’t have to be. They’re mostly people of action, not words. They’re pieces in a game moved around just right for you to worry about what happens to them. For example there’s a great scene where a badass special ops type guy (another MMA fighter, Mike Pyle) is sent in to do recon but accidentally engages The Pitbull. By this point it’s been established that this guy is merely super at being a soldier, not a super soldier. We have seen the work of both him and his opponent, and it’s clear to everyone what must go down. This guy will die, but first he’ll put up way more of a fight than any other regular non zombie soldier would put up. He’s not supernatural, he’s just highly trained, but you can’t turn him off either.

The look, feel and whole mentality of this one are completely different from any of the previous five four UNIVERSAL SOLDIER pictures. To me it seems more influenced by ALIEN, THE TERMINATOR and CHILDREN OF MEN than its own series. The story is perfectly streamlined, just setting the characters in motion and crashing them into each other, the type of elegant simplicity so many of these convoluted DTVs need as a role model in their lives. The tone is deadly serious, quiet, tense. The score is a nice John Carpenter/Brad Fiedel type keyboard droner. The sound design is really good too, lots of weird buzzes and distorted voices over radios creating atmosphere.

What I’m telling you is that this is a real fucking good movie, made with care and skill. I can’t believe how much I liked it. It joins UNDISPUTED II as the rare DTV sequel better than its theatrical originator. It’s also probly the first ever part 5 4 that’s better than its part 1. Unless you count porn. This is that you-would-think-mythical-but-it-turns-out-it’s-a-real-thing movie I’ve been naively waiting for all these years watching crappy DTV sequels. Sure, it’s unlikely that somebody would pour everything they got into something like a UNIVERSAL SOLDIER sequel. They probly wouldn’t do that. But they could. And for once, they did!

Did your dad ever tell you “If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well”? I bet this director, John Hyams, heard that one. His dad is Peter Hyams, director of Van Damme’s SUDDEN DEATH and TIMECOP as well as OUTLAND and 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT, and cinematographer for this one. I had to immediately look up the younger Hyams to see what else he’s directed – he did a 16mm movie long ago that’s not on video, some TV, and two sports documentaries, one of them about MMA, so that probly helped with the fight scenes.

This year and last are shaping up as some kind of renaissance for DTV action. THE TOURNAMENT is good, NINJA is good, BLOOD AND BONE is great, and now this. I really believe REGENERATION is not just good DTV, it’s miraculous. Maybe not everyone will appreciate it the way I do. I read one review that was positive but said it was weird that Van Damme doesn’t appear for a little bit and Lundgren isn’t in it that much. Those would be problems in conventional DTV where the stars are all it really has to offer, but in this movie to me it’s not even of any concern at all. It’s too artful to care about that. It doesn’t seem like they weren’t available, it seems like they were placed in the movie for exactly the amount of time the characters demanded.

Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know man but if I was one of those Hollywood producers always looking for untapped talent I would sign this dude up for something ASAP. If he can make the fourth sequel to fucking UNIVERSAL SOLDIER this good I can only imagine what he’d do with a little bigger budget and a better concept. This guy could go on to big things. Or he could keep raising the bar for DTV. Whatever he does I’ll be watching for now on.

NUMBERING NOTE: The title screen called it UNIVERSAL SOLDIER REGENERATION, the cover calls it UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 3, which Hyams said in an interview is his preferred title. That’s kind of weird though since there’s already been a part 3. It seems to imply that the made-for-cable ones don’t count, only the two theatrical ones with Van Damme and now this. But the movie wisely ignores the last installment, where Deveraux was somehow alive and normal again, and had a daughter.

I watched all of the sequels to prepare for this one, but don’t feel like you have to. In fact, if you’ve never seen any of them it might be smarter just to skip straight to this one.


Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43749

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 25th, 2010 at 3:22 am and is filed under Action, AICN, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

80 Responses to “Vern is shocked how good UNIVERSAL SOLDIER REGENERATION is!!!”

  1. Watched a screener last week and loved it. The JCVD scene in the warehouse where he moves around for about 10 minutes from room to room is terrific and Dolph’s last scene is spectacular.

  2. *gasp* Must…watch…

  3. The score tries SO HARD to be John Carpenter. *shakes head*

  4. The score tries SO HARD to be John Carpenter. *shakes head*

    Side Note: “Hollywood” should REALLY just give him enough money to make Escape from Earth, and stop raping his older films and ideas.

  5. Only watched the first one and this one in the universal Soldier series and whilst i disagree that the new one is better, it does show just how far DTV had come in recent years with some cool scenes and some solid performances.

    Now not all DTV sequels (or originals) work or are made with such a sure hand (like Vern indicates), the start alone belongs in a theatrical release and is like a very violent Bourne that you can actually see what is happening.

    What i would say is that movie does run out of steam at various points, but the ending does kinda make sense (in terms of what came before) and although i won’t be following the serious any further it looks like more Uni Sol releases are on the way.

    I also kinda dug Dolph’s performance, although very brief he was able to put across the pain (both internal and committed to others) that being a Uni-Sol must bring about and the constantly confused not quite sure of where he was, or who he really is, in a way that really shone through and showed just what he is truly capable of when given the opportunity.

    JCVD ain’t quite as good, while better than in a few of his older films (sorry don’t keep up to date with his newer releases) he just looks tired and haggard. Which while suiting this role i would imagine is not being done ‘method acting style’.

    The other guy, from the UFC (or whatever) is alright, but isn’t really required to do much other than maul everybody he comes across. So well done there and the stiffness in his acting is probably why this movie was a good choice for him.

    Overall not bad, a lot better than i expected, but the lack of money does show through, but well done to the father and son team who raise the material and shoot a movie that is far above the level you would expect, or some of the writing deserves.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a Universal Soldier movie. First time for everything.

  7. Nice review Vern. I’ll (surprisingly) be throwing this up in the Netflix que now.

    Is it weird that I don’t like seeing Vern’s stuff linked to Aint it Cool? Like I want to keep out DTV reviewing friend hidden away in our little corner, away from the haters over at Harry’s page.

  8. Brendan – the first one is actually a lot better than some reviews make it out to be, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s essentially a chase flick. You get the standard Van Damme final fight* at the end, which I’ve grown bored of through constant repetition, but when it’s just doing the whole Terminator thing it’s a solid watchable movie.

    *The ending of any Van Damme movie in six stages (plus an optional seventh stage):

    1) Absurdly oversized villain and Jean Claude Van Damme stare each other out, without blinking, for at least thirty seconds, in slow-mo.
    2) JCVD uses his superior speed and roundhouse-kicking abilities to pound the oversized villain without appearing to hurt him or do any physical harm to him whatsoever.
    3) Absurdly oversized villain decides to stop showboating and start comprehensively kicking JCVD’s ass. This usually takes ten to twelve solid blows, the last three all being in slow motion and filmed from JCVD’s point of view, just to emphasize how truly fucked up he is.
    4) Absurdly oversized villain inexplicably decides to stop whupping JCVD’s ass in order to demonstrate what a terrible, terrible person he actually is. This can be by a) threatening to kill JCVD’s wife / son / other close relative, b) molesting a sweet innocent female friend of JCVD’s with a firearm / grenade [please note that Dennis Rodman actually counts as “sweet innocent female friend” here], c) thinking he’s won and turning his back in a display of hubris prompted by exultation of his own delusions of invincibility, or d) monologuing his entire evil scheme to his “doomed” fallen enemy before he kills him.
    5) JCVD suddenly gets a second wind from a) extra motivation (“You threatened my family… you shouldn’t have done that!”), b) chemical stimulation, c) encouragement of friendly non-combatant, or, in the worst movies, d) I have no fucking idea – act of God? – he just gets up and starts fighting again for no obvious reason.
    6) Absurdly oversized villain is apparently shocked into mental submission by JCVD’s recovery, losing all of his previously formidable punching / blocking abilities and just standing there while JCVD beats the crap out of him for at least two minutes. This despite the fact that JCVD hasn’t landed a single effective blow up until this point. While the oversized villain may throw the occasional punch, and even land one once or twice, there is never any doubt who’s in charge. This continues for at least two minutes until the oversized villain collapses, probably covered in the blood of both men.
    7) As an optional final twist, the defeated oversized villain may also get a second wind and reach for a weapon to stab or shoot JCVD in the back (why he didn’t just use it before is never explained). This gives JCVD a good excuse to snap the oversized villain’s neck without it technically being “murder”.

    Please note that this also applies to sixty to seventy percent of all one-on-one martial arts fights with a “good guy” and a “bad guy” in cinema. Heck, Bolo Yeung vs John Saxon in “Enter the Dragon” even fit the mould. It was the one scene in that entire film that I didn’t like. (And I freakin’ love that film.)

  9. Fuck yeah, Oleg delivers.

  10. Vern – Man you gotta review OUTLAND one of these days.

  11. Hi, I try not to post no more cos I make too much trouble (and am slurping bottom of a cask this moment) but I do gots to chime in to give this one it’s due credit. I was loving it all the way through, but for me, the moment of shock where it became a masterpiece of dtv was dolph’s final scene – first the questions, but when I realised I was genuinely hanging off what great insight the dolph zombie was going to share… and then… I mean it’s 10/10 stuff. I never never got why people dun write good lines for all this movies when it’s so easy, fuck – someone finally took a few moments to think about what they were writing.

    I cried in JCVD but this made me race out and grab 10 dolph movies (10 for 10 deals here). Bit of a mistake cos I watched Detention and half-way through thought idiot, got the wrong guy, you need to grab 10 movies from the director or writer or someone but dolph. On plus side, enjoyed Red Scorpion more than I remember and Showdown in Little Tokyo is still a 10/10 old school action even without someone thinkin too hard on the writing.

  12. AU, you should try out ARMY OF ONE. It’s got bloody as hell gunfights and a bunch of Ferraris blowing up and shit.

  13. Oh hell yes , an Outland review would be amazing ! I still need to see Capricorn One , but I’m already sold on Hyams sci-fi movies . It’s strange that you mention Carpenter , because the last movie I re-watched is Ghost of Mars , and the opening of that movie reminded me of the classic Carpenter’s scores . And the movie I watched before that ? Timecop . Not as good as I remembered it ( I watched it as a child , and for me it was amazing ) , but at least with some fun moments . It’s good to hear that a DTV movie with cyber-soldiers still has the time for some peaceful acting moments…. with Jean-Claude Van Damme . Now before I watch this it’s time to re-watch Sudden Death. I would like to see Van Damme and the Hyams become a tag-team of DTV greatness , like Adkins and Florentine .

  14. Wow , there’s an Outland re-imagining in the works (2012)? With Hyams on board ? Didn’t see it coming . Also on board is Michael Davis , the director of Shoot em Up .

    And I was thinking …man , the Universal Soldier canonical movies , are full of good villains : Dolph , Michael Jai White and , uh…, Bill Goldberg . It’s good that the new one is interesting too .

  15. CallMeKermiT – You would like Capricorn One. Anyway, I guess Vern will review 2010 eventually. Just because its 2010.

    He’s many several good (and quite awful) movies, but I kinda have a sneaking admiration for Peter Hyams. Maybe its because its his willingness to tackle different genres, not exactly afraid of failure like many filmmakers (Kevin Smith) are of playing outside their comfortable sandbox.

    That and he lights his own movies. An underrated cinematographer, so nice to see him use those skills outside of his movies.

    I wonder if his last one BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT remake is good or bad. With Hyams, either is quite possible.

  16. If I remember correctly isn’t Outland one of those movies where the hero knows exactly who did what right at the beginning, then he spends the whole movie doing things the honourable way by gathering evidence and conducting a professional investigation and then goes all vigilante in the last ten minutes and just beats the shit out of the bad guy like he should’ve all along?

  17. Had a Hyams double feature of this w/ BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (RRA – reviews are terrible, but I liked it) and while I didn’t like it as much as Vern did (plot not as good as action), I’m in total agreement with him that John Hyams deserves a shot at a big Hollywood flick. He’s definitely from the McTiernan school of action filmatism, which is far less attended nowadays (goddamn kids are all going to the Bay school). The action scenes here are extremely well shot and edited and there’s no flashiness for flashiness’ sake. I wonder if at least one of these producers gave him shit for it, trying to convince the dude to add a few Avid farts here and there.

  18. Has anyone mentioned Running Scared yet? (They did at AICN, briefly.)

    While I thought the humor was a little over-the-top at a time, the film holds up fairly well; good New York sets; an epic car chase daring to best the French Connection.

    You should do a double-feature of that and OUTLAND, Vern!

  19. Plus, Paul: would that template fit John Woo’s Hard Target? (Been a long time since I watched it, but I don’t recall the finale going that way… Would be very amused if it did, though. {g})

  20. Not really Wolfgang, though Connery obviously has a good idea of what is going on early, and there is a change in his attitude, ultimately the movie is all about confrontation. Many people have called Outland “High Noon in space” and I guess I can see that, but it has a lot of other great stuff going on in the betrayals and investigation. I think Hyams (and the editor and sound designer and even the conductor) does a great job ratcheting up the tension as the hired killers are set to arrive. It’s not the “scary” tension of Alien (they share a lot of the same set design ideas so people like to trot out that comparison), it’s more traditional, and obviously the pace is a lot slower than recent movies, but I think it still works. Hoping for a Blu-ray soon as the DVD was an early release and could benefit from the resolution and color upgrade (as well as some bonus features).

    Love Running Scared, Sabreman, funny and some decent action as well as Joey Pants with a mohawk getting punched in the face. Also love Sudden Death, and as many have said, Hyams being a workhorse, he has others that are at least interesting if ultimately failures.

    I’m interested in the Outland reboot if only because the story is a classic and it would be cool if more people got to check it out. The original still works today, just thinking about Peter Boyle’s smirking face makes me want to load it up!

  21. In Outland I like the concept of human-only sci-fi , you know , no aliens , no jedi , no robots . Only humans and their problems , basically the same old shit .And I think the movie works very well with that idea because every single character is flawed in some way . Connery is stubborn and too attached to his idea of justice to notice that his wife is going to leave him ( you can understand her , but still , she left him , that bitch !) , his second in command is on Boyle’s payroll , the doctor is old and disillusioned and Boyle himself is the bad guy , but with problems of his own . I like that . Plus the actress playing the doctor, Frances Sternhagen , is also the old lady with the spraycan-flamethrower in the Mist . Awesome .

  22. Wolfgang – Not really, and yeah Sabreman is right that OUTLAND is basically “HIGH NOON in Outer Space,” and if one consider it that way, well it works rather well as a sci-fi western. Fuck you FIREFLY. Besides, its Sean Connery kicking ass (remember that?) in outer space.

    What more incentive you need?

    Sabreman/clubside – Yeah I also liked RUNNING SCARED, a fun buddy cop entry in that rather crowded genre in the 1980s. Good chemistry, comedy, stunts, etc.

    Then Hyams’ next movie I think was THE PRESIDIO, another buddy cop flick that is the reverse. Complete failure in almost* everyway, with ZERO chemistry between Connery and Harmon, dull action, I hate that movie. It makes STAY TUNED more likeable and not as lame in hindsight.

    I would also suggest Hyams’ THE RELIC and his NARROW MARGIN remake. MARGIN isn’t as good as that B-film noir classic, but its certainly watchable. RELIC is just a good tight monster movie thriller. Its like OUTLAND. Is it necessarily original or new? No, but its well done (and entertaining) derivativity.

    Carlos – Good to know about DOUBT.

    *=Only one good touch: Connery kicking ass in a bar fight using only his thumbs.

  23. CallMeKermiT – My favorite part of OUTLAND was Connery’s pre-war talk with the doctor, his only ally, who doesn’t get why Connery is going HIGH NOON about the arriving mercenaries.


    “because… maybe they are right. They sent me here to this pile of shit because they think I belong here. I want to find out if… well if they’re right. ”


    Also Connery’s beatdown of that drug dealer in the Kitchen. Not as ridiculously fun as the kitchen massacre in Hyams’ SUDDEN DEATH, but still fun.

  24. Yeah , for some reason the first dialogue between Connery and the doctor is one of the first scenes I remember of the movie , maybe because it’s so good at establishing the characters . ” I want the report immediately , or I will kick your ass all across the room . Marshall joke.” This is our hero , talking to a woman !

  25. You know what movie is kinda like OUTLAND and CAPRICORN ONE? SATURN 3. Old ass Kirk Douglas running around banging Farrah Fawcett and fighting a giant robot with a christmas light for a head, programmed by Harvey Keitel doing some sort of riff on Mr. Magoo. It’s a wild ride, man. Another great one along these lines is ANDROID with Klaus Kinski. I’m on a big sci-fi kick right now actually, I just found a new favorite in COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT and I’ve acquired a small collection of obscure Russian and Polish sci-fi that sounds mindblowing, like KIN-DZA-DZA and THE UGLY SWANS among others.

    I respect Hyams because he had the stones to follow Kubrick. 2010 is actually a pretty damn good movie, it’s just in the shadow of one of the greatest films ever made. The whole series is really good, I wish they’d make 2061 and especially 3001. And Rendezvous with Rama! Bring that shit on in 3D.

  26. Gwai Lo: On the topic of 2010, how do you feel about the decision Hyams made to take everything that happened in Kubrick’s film so literally, stuff that, I’m guessing, Kubrick intended to be much more symbolic or impressionistic, like the space baby? Don’t you think it kind of hurts the film?

  27. I’m definitely not going to argue that 2010 is a patch on 2001, if 2001 is a 10 out of 10 then I’m being really generous to give 2010 an 8. But I don’t think Hyams should be held responsible for taking Kubrick’s film literally, because he made a pretty faithful adaptation of Clarke’s book and Clarke had already gone to great lengths to explain what’s pretty enigmatic in the movie. I think Hyams did a good job adapting the story, or at least as good a job as any mere mortal could have done at the time. If you read the books or the scripts, you’ll find that Clarke, although a brilliant visionary with ideas to burn, is closer to Hyams’ workmanlike, prosaic style as a writer than Kubrick’s godlike artistic command of his medium. The gap between the literary 2001 and the literary 2010 is not the yawning chasm that it is in the film versions. Kubrick elevated what was there with his own genius, while Hyams mostly just got Clarke’s genius on screen intact without adding much on his own, outside of his technical ability. The biggest difference between Hyams and Kubrick might be the dialogue. Hyams has characters delivering lengthy explanations for things as Clarke does in his novels, while Kubrick found ways to translate almost all of that into a visual treatise on mankind and evolution. The only real essential dialogue in Kubrick’s entire movie is the conversations with Hal. Compare that to Roy Scheider’s obnoxiously obvious voice-over in 2010. But it’s Clarke’s doing, I think. Clarke ended his 2001 script with a narrator explaining EVERYTHING. Kubrick threw all that out of course, and the techniques he used to bookend the film with completely visual representations of our past and future stages of evolution is not something Clarke would have written if left to his own devices. Hyams isn’t Kubrick, but who is? He made a film where Jupiter turns into a star and yet it feels smaller than Kubrick’s movie. Nevertheless, I like it, and I wish we had more of Clarke’s work on film.

  28. Sorry for going OT I know you guys are here to discuss JCVD and Dolph Lundgren

  29. Gwai Lo – 2010 really works because Hyams concentrates on what he knows best: Action. And as an old timey sci-fi space adventure, 2010 delivers.

    And this aint AICN. We can go all off-topic as we wish. :)

  30. every word of this review is the truth.
    what a completely awesome movie. who would’ve imagined.

  31. Well put, Gwai Lo. I actually didn’t know that Kubrick was working with (and rejecting) a more literal-minded script.

    I like 2010, but I think Hyams shouldn’t have tried so hard to incorporate Kubrick’s imagery into his film, particularly the trippy space baby and the “ages of man” stuff. It would have been less jarring if he took an approach similar to Cameron’s approach to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN.

    Having said that, the scene where Dave visits his wife was nice, and everything with HAL worked really well. Helen Mirren made a cool Soviet. And Hyams succeeded way better than Bryan Singer at creating an extension to an existing work.

  32. http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/2001-A-Space-Odyssey.html

    Scroll down to the very bottom, then scroll up until you get to the part where there’s less ‘splaining. You’ll find that part hard to identify.

    Speaking of those aforementioned obscure eastern european science fiction movies, I just watched one called O-BI, O-BA – THE END OF CIVILIZATION and I’ll be fucking gobsmacked if isn’t a goddamn masterpiece. Feels like it beats CHILDREN OF MEN to the punch by about 20 years.


  33. Thanks guys, I saw Outland once a few years ago and am kinda hazy on it.

    I think I’m more of a Zardoz man.

  34. I apologize for taking this thread even further away from Universal Soldier Regeneration (which sounds terrific, and I’m eager to see) BUT, speaking of 2010…

    Which is a good movie with some terrific performances (Scheider! Mirren! Lithgow! The return of Dave!) set design (the interior of the Russian ship is particularly cool) and great effects (love the shot of the guys floating in zero g right before the space walk, which I suspect Cameron was remembering for the similar image in AVATAR). It can’t even begin to approach 2001, and whenever I watch Kubrick’s film I forget it exists, but on it’s own it has some wonderful moments. I always get chills during the Dave-as-Klaatu / Dr. Manhattan scene with Scheider and the image of the star-child, and the last shot on Jupiter’s moon.

    However, speaking of Cameron–am I the only one who thinks 2010 was a huge influence on The Abyss? Instead of The Discovery, we have the crashed submarine. Lithgow freaks out on the Discovery / Jammer freaks out in the sub. Bowman sees the Star Child / Lindsay sees the alien ship and the water tentacle. The world is on the brink of nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union. It’s prevented by aliens through a miraculous display of a power greater then man’s–nuking Jupiter / creating a giant wave.

    For years, I thought the end of The Abyss was Cameron’s homage to both The Day The Earth Stood Still and Watchmen, then I watched 2010 again and was like, Heeey, wait a second…..

  35. “They saw how often the first faint sparks of intelligence flickered and died in the cosmic night.”

    Yeah, I’m thinking 2001 was better off without the narration. Thanks for the link, Gwai Lo.

    CC: When I saw 2010 recently I thought Scheider’s performance was a bit hammy. It was like everyone else was in a low-key modern movie, but from time to time he’d have an outburst worthy of the Joan Crawford.

    Lithgow, Mirren and Bob Balaban were really good.

  36. Never seen so much as a single JCVD film before this, and was indeed surprised by how much I dug it. I notice too that the elder Hyams served as D.P. for this one, which probably accounts for part of the feeling that they put their best foot forward making it — it’s got to be a kick to work with your filmmaker dad on a project. And that’s also gotta be part of why it looks so good. Doubt you can often afford a cinematographer that experienced for most D2DVD films, to say nothing of the fact that this is one of the few films I’ve seen shot on a Red camera where the DP didn’t go insane with the digital grading — just a little bit of contrast and desaturation. Nicely done all around, really.

  37. Wow… I completely forgot that Hyams directed “The Relic”. There are _so_ many great pieces to that film; I’ve been meaning to upgrade to DVD for a while, and wouldn’t actually mind a blu-ray.

    True, it’s a totally unreal notion of ‘evolution’ — much like ‘Mimic’, which was released the same year I think (I saw them both the same year anyway, and adored both of them). But then again, so is 2001. {g} Which I loathe for some reason like leprosy.

    “The majesty of _2001_, but with a headchomping monster bounding around on fire! This is no _Night At The Museum_!” — Sabreman, Vern’s Tell It Like It Is talkback for some other movie entirely.

  38. Edit: Vern’s Life and Art of Vern talkback for some other movie entirely.

  39. Sorry about changing the subject guys. Am I crazy or didn’t Vern review The Limey? I distinctly remember reading him review it but I can’t find it and I’ve been looking for about an hour. Maybe he just talked about it in a review of some other movie. Hmmm….to google!!

  40. Vern talks about The Limey a lot in reference to other movies, but I also recall reading a review. I get stoned a lot though who knows.

    CC – I don’t think 2010 aligns all that closely with THE ABYSS, but I wouldn’t doubt that Cameron has read plenty of Clarke. True, the aliens in each instance stage massive shows of strength at the climax, but the interactions are totally different. In THE ABYSS the aliens are of more or less comparable to us (despite their unpreventable sneak attack). They send an obvious fuck off message with a massive tidal wave, because man is bothering them. But you can picture scenarios where we could strike back if they fucked with us. In 2010 the aliens are igniting Jupiter into a small sun so Europa will melt and begin their evolution, and we’re only there incidentally. It’s no skin off their teeth whether the ship hauled ass at the end or not. Dave Bowman is only there because he still retains the bare vestiges of his human personality, and uses himself as a cypher to communicate with the humans and give them a heads up. We are insects to the aliens in 2001/2010, the idea of retaliating against any of their god-like doings is simply ridiculous. There is the cold war aspect as well, but they are both 80s movies after all. I think THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL comparison is much more apt. And there was a string of underwater sci-fi stuff in the 80s, including LEVIATHAN from the same year which was basically THE THING crossed with SPHERE.

    ps. One thing that bugs me about 2010, and pardon me if I’m being astronomy-retarded here because I haven’t crunched the numbers or done the Googling, but in the final montage the two suns always occupy the exact same space/alignment in the sky, all across the world, at different times. Wouldn’t they always be in different configurations? I’m pretty sure Jupiter is all over the night sky. Or are we seeing simultaneous shots from the same hemisphere or something?

  41. Odo, I think somehow I missed reviewing THE LIMEY even though I gave it an Outlaw Award. And somehow I still haven’t written it up even though I’ve watched it more than once since then. I’ll add that to my list of things to do I guess.

  42. Okay, thanks Vern. My memory has been really undependable these last few days. First I lose 10 dollars betting that Guy Pearce played Young Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys and now I’m imagining non-existent Limey reviews. I need more than 4 hours of sleep at night probably.

  43. Gwai Lo : Thanks for mentioning all those movies , man . I’m a fan of the Strugatsky brothers ” Roadside Picnic” and of the Stalker movie by Tarkovsky , so I’m always looking for something similar . I will absolutely track down O-bi , O-ba , when I’m finished with my Frogtown retrospective . I love this place.

  44. I gotta read Roadside Picnic. STALKER is another favorite of mine, as well as SOLARIS, and I’ve been burning through Lem recently. I just watched another one by the O-BI, O-BA director, Piotr Szulkin, called THE WAR OF THE WORLD: THE NEXT CENTURY. And I am as stunned as I was last night when I watched his other movie. I’m trying to fathom how I hadn’t even heard of some of the sci-fi I’ve been watching lately prior to doing fairly detailed research. Because I’m finding excellent shit left right and center, someone needs to publish a report about this stuff being out there. I’m going to check out Szulkin’s GOLEM and GA-GA: GLORY TO THE HEROES next if I can find them (by the way I don’t know what is up with this guy and babytalk two part titles, his movies are serious.) Have you seen anything by Konstantin Lopushansky? He was a Tarkovsky disciple. I think I might go through his stuff when I’m done with Szulkin. Apparently LETTERS FROM A DEAD MAN, VISITOR OF A MUSEUM, THE TURN OF THE CENTURY and UGLY SWANS are all good.

  45. Roadside Picnic is very good , but drastically different from the movie . It’s one of those books I read once every 2 years , like Starship Troopers or The Forever war . I also remember reading somewhere , that the Strugatsky brothers , after Tarkovsky’s movie , completed another short story simply called Stalker , I don’t know if it’s a reimagining of the book , a sequel or something else because I wasn’t able to find it . I hope to find at least some of this movies !

  46. I like how we went talking about a DTV actioneer to Tarkovsky of all people.

    This is why I love this web sight.

    Seriously Vern, set up forums someday and you would be crackerjack popcorn rich.

  47. It works. Universal Soldier Regeneration actually reminded me, on occasion, of STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (the setting, and the soldiers running around with a specific look of gun), the videogame based loosely on Tarkovsky’s STALKER.

    But, you know, with guns. And none of that odd sub-textual weight that makes me want to weep at the end without having any idea why.

  48. I bet Tarkovsky could shoot a pretty good DTV action movie if he wanted to. Like that horse on the staircase scene in Andrei Rublev except 83 minutes long with more shootouts and cursing, and not so much reminding the viewer that all life must inevitably succumb to grim death in the end. Well OK maybe some reminding of that, just not so grim.

  49. Army of One sounds decent, and shocked not to have seen it… until looking for it, can’t find it legally – and i am member of all 3 of australian movie mail libraries and mebbe 16 or so video stores in my region, and cant find it illegally – one low quality torrent with 1 seeder. Open to suggestions. BTW, can’t find Bless the Beasts & Children (1971) either – anywhere. Killing me – like living in dark of the 20th century all over again…when you hadda except missing an episode of Webster meant you wouldn’t get to see it again. Ta for thought anyhow.

  50. Hey, Vern. Watched the flick yesterday and loved it. And I just finished your review, and it’s spot on. I couldn’t believe how good this was. It goes against all logic. In fact, the only issue I took was that it was almost too dramatic, dark and serious, which goes against every film before it. Which isn’t really a gripe at all. DTV like this is single-handedly saving Bad-Ass Cinema from becoming extinct.

    If you haven’t already, you should also check out some of Jesse Johnson’s work. His last couple DTV action flicks were pretty good (albeit not on US:R’s level). THE BUTCHER and THE 5th COMMANDMENT especially. I think if anyone could appreciate them, it’d be you. And I know I mentioned it once before awhile ago, but I’d love to read your thoughts on Jackie Wu Jing and FULL CONTACT. Especially since you liked BLOOD AND BONE as much as I did.

    One other thing, here’s a shameless, yet on-topic, plug: My amigo’s review of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION


    Keep kicking-ass Vern.

  51. Hey Vern, it’s your review that got me excited to watch the film and I enjoyed it so much I had to review it myself. It’s cool if you don’t read it, but I just thought I should post it here because as I said I wouldn’t have even watched it if not for you. I do link to this page at the bottom of it too.


    Peace, etc.

  52. Well, I’ve just seen it. Paid money to, no less. And I am frankly ASTOUNDED. Thanks very much for reviewing this one Vern, I wouldn’t have ever thought to watch it if you hadn’t. It’s scary how well-made and genuinely thought-provoking this film is. All about control, slavery, choices, consequences… it has more to say than any DTV movie that I can remember seeing, and yet it never shoves it down your throat. And you were 100% right about the bit where Dolph and JCVD meet… that had me reeling. Also the bit where Andrew starts asking questions… damn, so much of this film was memorable for all the right reasons.

    And I really, really wanted JCVD to “wait a second”.

    On a personal note, this review is what I come to this site for. Just occasionally you find something like this, and it’s made my day. Thanks very much.

  53. Oh yeah, and the ending is nothing like I described in my earlier post either. The only other JCVD film I can think of offhand that doesn’t fit the template is “Hard Target”, another good one, although not a quarter as good as this one was IMO.

  54. Well I saw Hyams’ recent BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT and…its actually kinda decent.

    Essential? No, but its certainly watchable when you get involved with it. There are logic and plot holes one must get over, like why didn’t the dead friend with the sole evidence burn more copies? I mean we all get paranoid about making sure our silly fan fiction gets 5 seperate files so we can get all 7 readers to catch it.

    And the ending….well, I get the point of it in Hyams’ remake of Fritz Lang’s original. It makes sense, its just maybe feels like its from another movie. Part of a thriller trend that I’m tired of.

    What I laugh at is some of the petty criticisms from negative blog reviews. I thought the lead actor was fine, appropriate for your contemporary news reporter: Pretty face with shit for brains. The production values are DTV level, which seems to be Hyams’ new home. Hey Orlando Jones gets to play a cop.

    But my favorite one: “I hated the outdated filmmaking.”


    Hyams never was a splashy arty director, a dependable shooter who lights good. Sure he’s not like the younger guys who does shakey camera and avid farts with the editing. I wonder if such mentality is why Vern can’t get his old school action filmmaking back.


    What did you guys make of the final scene? Was that guy being cloned because he put up such a good fight? If so, how did they know that in the first place, and how were they cloned so freaking quickly, or was that supposed to be from an unspecified later date?

  56. I just realized this doesn’t come out in Canada until the 9th of Feb. I’ll have some catching up to do, I guess.

  57. I finally watched Universal Soldier: Regeneration. I bought it solely based on Vern’s enthusiasm and was rewarded with an incredible filmatic experience. What a great movie. It’s easily one of the best action films of the last couple of years. Maybe more than that. The direction is perfect, the score is perfect, the acting is great, and the action sequences are unbelievable. Thanks for the heads-up on this one, Vern. Definitely the finest DTV film I’ve ever seen.

  58. Jared – Yeah I was too also fucking quite surprised with the ambitious filmatic imaginative scope. And for a UNIVERSAL SOLDIER DTV sequel of all goddamn things.

    This will sound hyperbolic, but you know what John Hyams’ work here reminds me of?

    John McTiernan on DIE HARD. Not not as good obviously, but people forget how that classic, Mctiernan focused not just on Bruce Willis or the guns or the jokes or explosions. No, Mctiernan cared about what we see on the full widescreen, and play with that.

    I mean NINJA ASSASSIN had a super big budget, but all those expensive sets were effectively went to waste because of the cameras tight on faces, cutting back and forth. Really uninteresting.

    Yet REGENERATION, the whole thing is fascinating to look at. Yeah Hyams had the budget of Michael Bay’s RV from Transformers 2, but he used to that his advantage. And not make excuses. We have the ole cliches of the abandoned factory as an action set-piece, and maybe the first time since ROBOCOP that I wasn’t bored when an actioneer used that location.

    Hell it might also be the best lighted DTV I’ve ever seen. Thanks Peter Hyams.

  59. I’m arriving late to this party, but I really can’t believe how shockingly good this movie is. It’s borderline perfect in execution, an instant classic. Beautifully shot, masterfully edited, expertly sound designed, well acted, and leanly scripted, it seems both fresh and old school. It might be too soon to say this, but I think this is one of the best directed action films I’ve ever seen, juggling a tone that’s simultaneously eerie, realistic, and unexpectedly poetic. The showdown between Van Damme and Lundgren is badass, absurd, and melancholy, like a one-act Beckett play about immortal cyborgs locked in an unending cycle of confrontation. This is existentialism at its most brutal, and a wake-up to all other action directors working today. This filmmaking team is so good, I’d actually let them remake DIE HARD if they really, really wanted to. (I’d prefer if they just did that DIE HARD IN A NURSING HOME movie everybody’s always joking about, though.)

  60. Majestyk – John Hymams would fine a way to make DIE HARD IN A NURSING HOME work.

    I mean Jesus, he made a UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movie better than UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.

  61. Man, I just saw and loved Universal Soldier Regeneration, and then I downloaded Cabin Fever 2 and watched it with optimism, hoping I’d have a double feature that would solidify the emergence of quality DTV. Too bad it’s fucking awful. Ti West tried to take his name off it, but I can’t imagine any way anything in the film could have worked out. It’s basically a Troma film in all the worst ways. Stupid and mean for no reason. Terrible ending on top of it.

  62. Just watched this. (It came out in Canada yesterday). Fucking great flick. Hard, grungy, visceral violence. Fantastic stunt work. Cool locations. Great camera work. JCVD is outstanding. His face at the end; tired, dirty, kind of sad but pragmatic in victory. Awsome.

    Some minor dislikes – Would have liked more detail in the military action. Snipers, strategy, multiple fronts etc. Also, a little disappointed at how quickly the Uni-Sols gave up on firearms.

    Favorite Part – The colored rorschach that gave Luc a feeling of peace was the same color as the serums being pumped into his blood stream. Poetry.

    Loved it.

  63. In case it hasn’t been posted here yet, here’s Dolph co-hosting a Swedish music program.

    That is my kind of host.

  64. I saw it yesterday and I also thought it was fantastic. One small thing bothered me – did it really take JCVD 29 hours to jog the 2 miles from the base to the reactor? I might have missed something but it sounded like they said there are 30 hours left right before he left and when he got to it the timer was almost up.

  65. Here’s some cool info on the upcoming Universal Soldier 3D project they will be shooting soon in case anyone missed it


  66. diselboy – Yeah Deadline reported too that John Hyams is back.

  67. Just saw the Blu Ray from Netflix, and it’s just as amazing as you guys made it out to be. Expertly choreographed action, great music, great acting, great story. Hyams has a real mastery of what’s in the frame and what your eye is supposed to be looking at. I’m actually having trouble naming my favorite part, but the car chase and the Dolph/JCVD fight are worth the price of a rental alone.

    It’s definitely not a “fun” time at the movies – it’s thought-provoking and more than a little depressing – “The Dark Knight” of DTV, if you will. I still prefer Undisputed II to this one just because that one ends on a “feel-good” note and I’m a sucker for that shit, but this is one incredible movie.

    I think my only nitpick was I felt the Blade Runner homage was kind of unnecessary. (The Hard-Boiled homage fit in the documentary-like style of the action, so I didn’t mind that one) – this movie was so good, it didn’t need to reference anything else, and I actually think other movies (DTV and theatrical) will be cribbing scenes from it soon.

  68. Worst targeted marketing ever, right there. Has a woman EVER googled a review of Universal Soldier 3: Regeneration?

  69. I can proudly say that, after my lady and I watched it, she did indeed search for reviews in an effort to confirm that others had seen the brilliance, sensitivity, and economy of exposition that she had.

    (I am of course shamelessly boasting about my woman).


  70. Is she worried about cellulite?

  71. Hunter – well I know I am. It should be pointed out more in this forum that true badass film fans need silky smooth legs.

    Wait a sec…

    *re-reads comment about whether Dolph is sexier than JCVD, which I was TOTALLY expecting Vern to disagree with me on btw*


  72. Okay…that was the strangest series of mental images I have ever experienced outside of describing a Jorodrowsky movie. I applaud you, sir.

  73. And do you know why this Universal Soldier (Whatever The Sequel Number) is the only really watchable Universal Soldier flick?
    Because it was written by… Victor Ostrovsky.

    Yes, THAT Victor Ostrovsky. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it – “OSTROVSKY?!? Writing the script for a crappy DTV actioneer sequel #17?!? Impossible, it must be some doofus with an identical name…” – but it really is the guy. Pretty damn amazing.

  74. Spambot alert— hubba, hubba! Two can play at this game:

    “Your blog has been instrumental in making particular the renal obstruction and its cousin. My dog looks forward to cohabiting with your elusive parakeet along the lines of genetic misguidance. We appreciate your business and understand your longing for size 14 moon boots. Cheerio and happy acid trails!”.

    I think Asi needs the hookup with this kind of gig. Maligning the English language like an elegant pretzel is no simple task.

  75. [insert “I like thee fungus the way I likes me women” joke]

    Best… spambot… EVER!

  76. The Original... Paul

    April 6th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I would like to thank the completely random spambot, who apparently wants me to visit the “obituaries” section of a local newspaper for some bizarre reason that I don’t fully understand, for reminding me that I hadn’t read this review in a while. It’s still one of my faves.

    Now let’s see what the dead are doing in Newark! Hey, I’m breathing in toxic Saharan dust right now, I could use something to cheer me up.

  77. A History of Violence l

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration breathed life into both Jean-Claude Van Damme's career and straight-to-DVD action

    With A History Of Violence, Tom Breihan picks the most important action movie of every year, starting with the genre’s birth and moving right up to whatever Vin Diesel’s doing this very minute.


  78. It has been a little while (ha!) since the above review, but I saw the mention of Szulkin’s “Ga, ga” above, and the question of the “baby talk” – and I thought it might be worth explaining that he had, indeed, done that deliberately, since at the time he was listening to his own newborn, and became quite fascinated by observing how the jumble of meaningless sounds would eventually form recognisable phonemes, and those would eventually morph into meaningful syllables.

    The title of “Ga, ga” is actually addressed in a scene within the film itself: upon being forced to sign a “voluntary confession” at one point, the protagonist signs it “Ga, ga”, and explains to the interrogating bureaucrat that it is the noise that powerless babies make; the bureaucrat is satisfied and remarks that he’s no disciplinarian.

    “Ga, ga” itself is always a fascinating watch, although I suspect that it could be, to an extent, incomprehensible to someone who did not grow up behind the Iron Curtain in the 80s… or that, at least, such a person would not exactly “feel” the film in the same manner in which we do. Nevertheless, it seems to be quite universally liked by the small handful of those who know it (probably because it’s the kind of film that only a true connoisseur would seek out :).

  79. Actually, since I mention “Ga, ga”, perhaps it’s worth to expand upon it a little: the film takes place in a supposedly-utopian-actually-extremely-dystopian future, in which outer space has been explored and exploited so much that all planets worth discovering have already been colonised, humans have become lazy and spoiled, and nobody wants to be an astronaut anymore. Therefore, the demanding and dangerous job of the astronaut is now forced upon prisoners, who are tossed into rusted, clunky rockets and sent out to find new planets. If they’re lucky, they land on a habitable planet, perhaps even one with civilisation; if not, they still have to perform their explorer’s duty, i.e. stick a cheap miniature flag in the surface, claim the planet for Man, and expire heroically in their useless, immobile spaceships…

    There is a little more about it, alongside a few screen shots, here:

    "Ga, ga: Glory to the Heroes!" - the 1986 dystopian sci-fi farce.

    I have seen Piotr Szulkin's sci-fi films (for instance, *Golem* and *O-bi, oba*) mentioned occasionally, so I thought that this one might deserve...

    and here:

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