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Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

2012 | 114 min | NC-17 | 2.39:1

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning


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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal

Martial arts30%


Theatrical release date

 30 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning


Screenshots from Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Blu-ray

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 8, 2012

Comparing 1992’s “Universal Soldier” to 2012’s “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” is impossible at this point, with the franchise far removed from its original intent, despite the continued participation of stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. The latest round in the UniSol saga (the sixth film in the tattered franchise) is its darkest yet, digging into psychosis and severe examples of violence to secure a doomsday atmosphere for the story. Co-writer/director John Hyams aims to bring a “Heart of Darkness” overlay to the proceedings, which is an inspired choice, especially for a movie series that once offered itself as summertime popcorn escapism. Now it just wants to scare the bejesus out of the audience.

John (Scott Adkins) is a humble family man forced to witness the murder of his wife and child at the hands of rogue UniSol, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Beaten unconscious, John awakens months later with a limited memory, comprehending only a desire to seek out and kill Luc. Working his way across the city on a mission to gather clues and piece his life back together, John stumbles upon a dark secret, learning about Luc’s efforts to build a separatist army of mind-controlled brutes, corralled by his second-in-command, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). Teaming with a stripper (Mariah Bonner) who has working knowledge of his life, John encounters all types of revelations and setbacks on his road to revenge, finding Luc’s deranged soldiers relentless in their attempts to kill anyone who dares to stand in their way.

Returning to duty after “Universal Soldier: Regeneration,” Hyams continues his quest to sniff out an alternative route for this once heroic story, returning to bleak endeavors as Luc transforms into an unhinged monster with an army of senseless grunts at his command. “Regeneration” was an inspired change of course for the franchise, while “Day of Reckoning” bends reality further, turning a miniature war story into a puzzle populated with clones, nightmarish visions, and unstoppable enforcers. It’s a striking feature, dipped in acid and lit like a snuff film, with Hyams hoping to conceal his modest budget by keeping the proceedings utterly dire, creating a hypnotic pulse of insanity as Luc works his way into John’s mind via a needle shot that “awakens” the chosen to his influence.

While the picture doesn’t exactly capture its intended intensity, “Day of Reckoning” is convincing, abandoning windy dialogue exchanges to keep on John’s steely focus as he marches into dangerous areas of town. Hyams adds a little flair with complicated POV shots meant to provide a glimpse of the lead character’s sense of reality, but the majority of the feature stalks along, waiting for the next outburst of violence. “Day of Reckoning” is aggressive and a tad sadistic, with an enormous amount of bodily trauma emerging from extended combat sequences that spotlight futile attempts to slow Luc’s hitmen, trashing buildings and automobiles in the process. Adkins is best with kicks and punches, keeping him busy with a terrifically physical performance, while MMA fighter Andrei Arlovski has a few memorable moments as a walking death machine out to silence John. The action maintains alertness, with a smooth visual push offered to spotlight the brutality in a refreshingly blunt manner.

However, a word of warning: “Day of Reckoning” makes extensive use of strobe lighting in the opening act to transition between Luc’s mental infiltration and the real world. For those with a sensitivity to such visual effects, be careful with this feature.

As with “Regeneration,” Lundgren and Van Damme only pop in for a few scenes, just enough to keep their names on the poster. It’s a shame their participation is so limited, with Lundgren pleasingly bonkers as the underground ambassador of the emergent cult, while Van Damme goes all Kurtz in the finale, painted black and white to portray a hollow man who’s gone insane, instigating death while he prays for his own. It’s a striking performance of glares from the actor, and I wish there was more for him to do. Adkins is far too mild of a leading man to carry the movie alone.

“Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” toys with reality and identity, and while it doesn’t build to a fever pitch, it’s strange, scowling tone of intimidation is quite appealing, especially for those who prefer their action events as dark as possible. It’s difficult to discern where the story will lead next, but that’s part of the franchise’s appeal at this point. The producers are making this stuff up as they go, experimenting with tonal shifts and aggression as they attempt to secure a new future for the series.

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, David Jensen (II), Mariah Bonner, Andrei Arlovski
Director: John Hyams

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