Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

Posted in Reviews by - January 19, 2017
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

This is a tremendous film – a bleak, paranoid psycho-thriller with a good, twisting narrative and a woozy soundtrack, plus a strong central performance from Scott Adkins. Scott has a habit of stealing the limelight in Van Damme films, although JCVD is very much on the peripheries of this Universal Soldier sequel. If Regeneration was John Hyams’ attempt to refashion the franchise as an industrial, dystopian Jason Bourne-style smash ’em up, then this is his more observed, existential antidote. Hyams takes the undead superhuman concept to its lurid, eerie and horrific extremes with machete battles, grisly surgical scenes and gun fu. The emotional dissonance shown by the Unisols (particularly Arlovski’s Terminator-like killing machine) seems to suggest a link to the psychological effects of war, most notably in the form of PTSD. Adkins’ central character, John, is shown to be battling with his own mental health issues having woken from a nine month coma with only the memory of his murdered wife and child – killed at the hands of Van Damme’s Luc Deveraux character, here sporting a shaven head like some kind of Buddhist mystic. Despite his amnesia, John attempts to piece together the remaining fragments of his mind – a bit like fellow CIA experiment Jason Bourne – as he seeks out Deveraux to take revenge. As he does so, he faces the unfortunate predicament of realising that he might not actually be the nice family man he thinks he is. Dolph Lundgren has a cursory supporting role as a Spartacus-like leader of the country’s remaining Unisols determined to form his own militia by freeing them from their governmental servitude. Van Damme’s bald head keeps cropping up in slow, strobe-induced hallucinogenic visions which are very effective, and the overall tone is deliberately ambiguous. But Hyams is still acutely aware that he is making a Universal Soldier film, and fight fans will not be disappointed. Once John remembers his remarkable fighting abilities, he takes on Arlovski in a blistering encounter in a sports shop and, towards the end, he goes on a one-take, one-man rampage which is all very exciting.

AKA: Universal Soldier: A New Dimension; Universal Soldier IV.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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