Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DTV Delirium

2009 has been good for the action schlock fan. Between Blood and Bone, The Tournament, and the return of the "classic" Universal Soldier franchise with its latest installment dubbed Regeneration, it seems as if a new Pyrite Age has arrived.

Unfortunately, I've come to piss on the pyrite. Regeneration is kind of a bore. It hurts me to say that, really. The action is top notch, and the fights are exciting. Director John Hyams is truly his father's son. Peter Hyams (DoP on this) was a serviceable Hollywood journeyman for a while and even a JCVD alumnus, having directed both Sudden Death and Timecop.

Johnny Boy's a big fan of Children of Men, apparently. A drab, industrial world filled with shabby appartments and dilapidated factories is the one in which Luc Devereaux and Andrew Scott move through this time around. You might say this is just a staple of the cheap Eastern European shooting locations, so typical for DTV action, but Hyams pulls off several long tracking shots that are very reminiscent of the Cuaron film. One in particular during which JCVD dispatches a few dozen men with a knife is amazing.

Besides Hyams' technical mastery, there's really only one other thing the movie has going for it: Dolph Lundgren in a small role (sliiiightly too big to be a cameo) as a clone of the original film's villain Andrew Scott. Scott's clone isn't the colorful psychopath the original was, but his confused existentialism is very amusing, as the answers he seeks aren't as much "42" as they are "kill 42 dudes". He really steals the show in the three scenes he's in.

JCVD plays Luc Devereaux as a man without purpose, grim and joyless. Did Devereaux fall into a depression after the first movie, or was JC just contractually obligated to make this movie and it shows? Either way, he's really boring besides being in good shape still. And that weird lump on his forehead.

Most screen time goes to Andrei "DA PIT BULL" Arlovsky, who I think is some sort of MMA fighter or something. He's menacing, but doesn't exactly exhude charm. There's one pretty good sequence where he's basically parkour Jason Voorhees, destroying 4 nameless Universal Soldiers, but that's about it. He has a Baraka-style armblade, if that gets you off.

How would I have fixed this movie?

*Beef up JC's part. Have him be a soldier of fortune or tournament fighter who is utterly bored with his human opponents, and thus sees DA PIT BULL's hostage situation as a chance to finally have some fun again.

*Make the doctor who created DA PIT BULL and cloned Scott a true Mad Doctor, ranting and raving about his GENETIC SUPERMEN and WORLD DOMINATION.

*Have Scott rebel against his creator as seen in the movie, but have him team up with JCVD to take down the superior PIT BULL model. Then, have Scott betray JC and make their fight the climactic one.


So there you have it, Universal Soldier: Regeneration: a decidedly mixed bag in the DTV Renaissance of 2009.