Jean-Claude Van Damme + Dolph Lundgren + a Universal Soldier sequel = ’nuff said. That’s right. The 1990s sci-fi franchise is back with its two original European stars. Van Damme and Lundgren co-headline Universal Soldier: Regeneration, the latest installment about troops resurrected as killer cyborgs called UniSols. It should be on DVD and Blu-ray shelves by the time you read this. Surprisingly, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is not the cheesefest I thought it would be. Rather, it’s good entertainment, largely because of two main ingredients: Van Damme and Lundgren.


Improve your martial arts trivia knowledge with our free guide—Our Bruce Lee Movies List: Little-Known Trivia From Bruce Lee's Pictures.

Since the turn of the millennium, the “Muscles from Brussels” and Sweden’s most famous karateka have made a number of low-budget DVDs. Rather than go the way of Clint Eastwood, the aging action icon who transformed himself into an Oscar-winning director, Van Damme and Lundgren have marched in the boot prints of Sylvester Stallone, who’s received mixed reviews for making unnecessary Rambo and Rocky sequels. The good news: Universal Soldiers: Regeneration isn’t a shameless cash cow or an exploitative excuse to relive past glories. It’s an organic extension of the Universal Soldier mythos and a reality check for its stars—particularly Van Damme, whose aging status is incorporated into the script. His Luc Deveraux character is now decommissioned, blurred by amnesia and stricken by post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s unexpectedly thrown back into service when a next-generation UniSol (played by Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Andrei Arlovski) is manipulated by Chechen terrorists to kidnap the Russian president’s children and threaten a second nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Worse yet, a terrorist scientist clones Luc’s arch nemesis, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren). While Universal Soldier: Regeneration gunplay is rather rudimentary—with director John Hyams and his cinematographer/father Peter Hyams (director of Van Damme’s Timecop and Sudden Death) imitating the jarring style from the Bourne movies—the hand-to-hand fight scenes are worth watching. Stunt coordinators Charlie Picerni and Borislav Iliev craft a vicious set piece for Van Damme and Lundgren’s standoff. Gone are the impractical helicopter kicks and flashy fisticuffs. Instead, the two old-school UniSols plow into each other like grizzly bears, smashing through windows and walls. The choreography isn’t innovative, but its visceral nature harkens to the grand brutality of 1980s action movies. The most pleasant surprise is Arlovski, who has top billing, believe it or not. The “Pit Bull’s” talents—kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling—give the franchise a fresh take without going overboard with the mixed-martial arts techniques. Fortunately, there’s virtually no mention of the events that took place in 1999’s repugnant Universal Solider: The Return or in the Van Damme-less, noncanonical sequels Universal Solider II and Universal Solider III. That’s a wise move, considering that Universal Soldier: Regeneration is far better than those atrocious middle chapters. I would have rated Universal Soldier: Regeneration higher, but the second act drags, mostly because the screenplay never focuses on any one character. Arlovski has a lot of scenes, but he’s not the main character. Van Damme should have been the emotional core of the story, but his character development is stunted. And Lundgren gives a strong performance, but his work amounts to only a handful of scenes. Still, Universal Soldier: Regeneration quenches my nostalgic blood lust for 1990s action and violence. (Patrick Vuong is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and martial artist based in Orange County, California.)

Black Belt Magazine has a storied history that dates back all the way to 1961, making 2021 the 60th Anniversary of the world's leading magazine of martial arts. To celebrate six decades of legendary martial arts coverage, take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through some of the most influential covers ever published. From the creators of martial art styles, to karate tournament heroes, to superstars on the silver screen, and everything in between, the iconic covers of Black Belt Magazine act as a time capsule for so many important moments and figures in martial arts history. Keep reading to view the full list of these classic issues.

Keep Reading Show less
Daily Guardian

Brandon "The Truth" Vera has run roughshod over the ONE Championship heavyweight division since his arrival. With knockouts in each of his performances in the division, Vera has taken the mantle and led the charge as the ONE Heavyweight World Champion.

On Saturday, May 15, at ONE: Dangal, a new challenger arises in "Singh" Arjan Bhullar.

Bhullar made a statement in his ONE debut against Mauro Cerilli, and now he'll get an opportunity at the gold in the main event of ONE's latest entry of their exciting 2021 campaign.

The American Kickboxing Academy athlete is a talented grappler. He is a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and has enjoyed success since transitioning into mixed martial arts. However, a World Championship has eluded him thus far, and it keeps pushing him each day in the gym.

But Vera will not go quietly.

Keep Reading Show less

Thursday night's Professional Fighters League show from Atlantic City was a mixed bag of results as Olympic champion and defending PFL titleholder Kayla Harrison made quick work of her opponent while former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum suffered a controversial loss in his PFL debut. The two-time judo gold medalist did what she does in her women's lightweight bout getting a quick takedown against Mariana Morais, moving into mount and unleashing punches until the referee stopped the fight a minute and a half in.

Werdum looked on a similar trajectory against heavyweight foe Renan Ferreira gaining the early takedown and slowly advancing position. But as he attempted to pass from half-guard into mount, Ferreira reversed him, though Werdum was able to slip into a triangle choke from the bottom appearing to make Ferreira tap. Referee Keith Peterson failed to see it, however.

Keep Reading Show less