Universal Soldier: Regeneration Blu-ray Review
PictureUniversal Soldier: Regeneration hits Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original (limited release) theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. The already surprisingly professional low-budget release looks superb on Blu-ray, the digital camerawork offering up mostly pros when it comes to presentation: amazing detail and clarity throughout, no noticeable softness, and a clean print that totally devoid of any defects. Similarly there isn't any grain on offer here - it really does look much better than its budget would normally dictate. The film has a very drained colour palette - intentionally so - with greys, blues and greens taking precedence over all other colours. It suits the setting, and the material, again adding to the professional feel. Only a few scenes stand out as having truly rich colours - like the blue cryo-chamber sequences and the massive night-time explosion - although, again, this works for the film. Blacks are generally fairly solid, although not perfect, and the biggest problem is the motion blurring that is commonplace with entirely digital-shot action films, but overall this is a solid presentation, especially considering the material.
SoundOn the aural front things are much more clear-cut. The DTS-HD Master Audio track has a great deal to work with, and sounds extremely powerful. Right from the crash-and-bang opening kidnapping the surrounds get full use, bullets whizzing around your room and cars sliding across the screen, offering up some superb directionality. Dialogue may not be the all-important factor for this kind of production, but it nevertheless gets keen presentation across the fronts and centre channels, dominating wherever appropriate. The synth score is also well suited to the material, and gets respectful treatment as such, rumbling across the surrounds almost throughout the proceedings, and kicking into overdrive when the scenes get more action-orientated. It all sounds extremely futuristic, with hints of Blade Runner and any John Carpenter effort, like The Thing or Escape from New York, giving the movie a darker and more haunting atmosphere than the original. Whilst this is an action-dominated affair, and that is where the track really shines (even offering a hefty chunk of bass in the mix) the electronic score is the most distinctive element - another surprisingly good facet of this production. Quality.
ExtrasAlso differentiating this from many of its limited-release ilk, Regeneration hits Blu-ray with a disc that is far from vanilla. The extras are just not what you would expect for what is - on the face of things - just a low budget action sequel.
First up we get a full length Audio Commentary from the Director John Hyams, who is joined by none other than actor Dolph Lundgren. Fans, I'm sure, would have loved to have Van Damme on board for this, but perhaps that would have been a bit too much alongside Lundgren. And, arguably, Dolph has the edge when it comes to giving an informative commentary, not least because comprehendible English comes comparatively easier to him, but also because he's recently made a concerted effort to direct his own decent low-budget DTV action films, and can therefore give us a more technically proficient contribution. The two of them give us plenty of insight into how to make a decent, professional, low budget action film, talking about the setting, the stunts, choreographing the fight scenes (Dolph has a few interesting comments about his fight choreographing opposite Stallone for Rocky IV) and delving into some of the characterisation and story development within the franchise.
Behind the Lines Documentary
There is also an 18-minute High Definition Making-Of entitled Behind the Lines which has the Director John Hyams and his father, the Director of Photography, Peter Hyams, along with some of the crew, talking about the production. They discuss the original script ideas (in much greater detail than in the Commentary) and talk about the suspense and horror elements that were thrown into the mix, as well as taking us through some of the finer points of the stuntwork, directorial and location difficulties that they overcome despite the limited budget. Van Damme and Lundgren both pop up to talk about returning to the roles, the fight, and working together once again, and the main MMA stars discuss their contributions, and their combat moments. This is a great little companion-piece for the main feature.
We also get Trailers for a bunch of other releases, including the hilarious-looking Black Dynamite, the all-star Armoured and the sleeper hit Zombieland, as well as The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, The Damned United, The Stepfather, Breaking Bad: Season 2 and Snatch. There's also a Trailer for Universal Soldier: The Return, which gives you an idea of just how wrong they got the first sequel.
VerdictUniversal Soldier: Regeneration is a good movie, a hidden gem within the mire of straight-to-Blu-ray and Limited release action flicks. It has a solid basic premise - a variation on The Rock - and it tells this story using the style and mood of dark sci-fi thrillers like The Terminator. Reuniting original Universal Soldiers, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, and throwing them into a potent mix of explosive stunts, Call Of Duty-style shootouts and MMA fights, it makes for an extremely engaging little b-movie. Add to that a truly memorable John Carpenter-esque score, solid direction by John Hyams, and some superbly tense cinematography by his dad, noteworthy Director Peter Hyams, and you get a hell of a lot for the tiny $14 Million budget. On Blu-ray we get solid video (Digital advantages and disadvantages notwithstanding) and punchy audio, as well as - surprisingly - a nice couple of extras to give some insight into the production and the franchise in general. Both Van Damme fans and fans of the original Universal Soldier movie should be pleasantly surprised by the quality of this low budget sequel, which follows in the dark and violent footsteps of Stallone's recent Rambo sequel as another respectful hark back to the best of the 80s actioners. Regeneration is a tense, moody and atmospheric sci-fi thriller packed with brutal action, and it comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.67
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