With stolen top-secret technology, terrorists have created
a next-generation Universal Soldier - an elite fighter genetically
altered into a programmable killing machine. With this "UniSol"
(Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei "The Pit Bull"
Arlovski) leading the way, they seize the crippled Chernobyl
nuclear reactor, threatening to unleash a lethal radioactive
cloud. The only one who can stop them is Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude
Van Damme), a UniSol who's been decommissioned for years.
Reactivated and retrained, Deveraux must make a full-out assault
on the heavily armed fortress. But inside, he'll discover
not one but two of these virtually indestructible warriors.
Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), Deveraux's vicious UniSol enemy
from the original Universal Soldier, has been secretly reanimated
and upgraded. Now, these elite fighters are locked, loaded
and programmed to kill; and the fate of millions hinges on
this high-action showdown.
Even till today, the original "Universal Soldier" after it’s initial released back in 1992 remains a cult hit with action fans. The sci-fi action movie propelled the career of director Roland Emmerich (2012, Independence Day) and a certain Jean-Claude Van Damme to the A-list though it didn’t do that much to his co-star Dolph Lundgren whose career highlight is fighting against Rocky and being Master of the Universe.
Ignoring the presence of the two direct-to-television sequels and a theatrical sequel comes "Universal Soldier: A New Beginning" or "Universal Soldier: Regeneration" as it is known in the States. Director John Hyams (son of director/cinematographer Peter Hyams) injected a new life into the flagging franchise with much aplomb and proved that a direct-to-video production might not be necessary that bad after all.
In "Universal Soldier: A New Beginning", the children of the Russian Prime Minister are kidnapped by a group of separatists led by General Boris. Unless the Prime Minister released their imprisoned comrades, they will blow up the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant together with his children. Thus the only way to save the kids and dismantle the bombs is to send in four UniSols by the U.S. forces in the rescue mission when they realised that there is a next-generation UniSol, NGU (Andrei Arlovski) among the terrorists.
The storyline presented here is straight-forward and fairs reasonably coherent as a setup to the various hand-to-hand combat sequences that follows after the dramatic opening sequence which involves a pretty well choreographed car chase. Hyams kept the slower moments to the minimum and concentrate on staging various action battles involving anything from mixed martial arts (MMA) to UFC to satisfy the audience. While the action is aplenty, they were never over-the-top cheesy or excessively violent if you take into the fact that those 'people' are not ordinary human beings, they are UniSols, clinically altered super beings or some calling them as Terminator rip-offs.
Although prominently billed, both Van Damme and Lundgren in fact has little screentime here. For this reviewer however, it’s always comforting to see some past action stars back in the limelight. While Van Damme has lost much of his former glory, the 50 year old proved he can still fight and high-kick in his stretchy pants. His arch-enemy in the original Universal Soldier, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) even gets to spar with his Luc’s character, a reminiscent to the good old days where action heroes such as Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone once ruled the screen.
Perhaps it’s the on-location shooting in Bulgaria (which fits the Eastern Europe setting) that lowers the production budget on the whole that the money is obviously well-utilized in factors such as the cinematography (which was helmed by daddy himself), costumes & set designs and excellent-choreographed action pieces. "Universal Soldier: A New Beginning" might not revive the franchise much in terms of box-office revenue but it certainly showcases the high standards set by Hyams and his team. In this aspect, we are definitely watching at Hyams’s career with great interest.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The movie is filled with dark, somber colours throughout yet the DVD does not disappoint with the visual transfer. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is aggressive and features plenty of gunfire. Ambience sound effects and dialogue are well reproduced here too.
by Linus Tee
Posted on 12 February 2010