Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
Directed by John Hyams. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Andrei Arlovski, Mariah Bonner, Rus Blackwell. (2012, R, 114 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Nov. 30, 2012
This is a surprisingly complex and ambitious fourth entry in the Universal Soldier series (not counting TV-only efforts) which began in 1992. All have featured Jean-Claude Van Damme, though he doesn't exactly star in this one. As with all the rest, this is about government-created, biologically altered supersoldiers. The government's motivations are of the worst sort, and any self-awareness leads these mutants to rebellion.
This new take stars Scott Adkins as John, whose family is massacred at the very beginning of the film. The remainder is a choreographed ballet of violence – mostly one-on-one combat, always to excess and often beyond. Certainly John is interested in revenge, but just as much of the film’s violence happens to him as because of him. Saying this is a strong entry in the series is not to argue that this is anything more than a violent pulp effort. Aspiring to be not much more than a generic actioner, the film is aptly and more than competently directed by co-writer John Hyams, who also directed Universal Soldier: Regeneration in 2009, the third entry in the series. As with that effort, this one also features Dolph Lundgren and Andrei Arlovski, a fighting legend and UFC world champion. I'm as big a fan of mindless violence in movies as the next guy – which is to say bigger than most. I just like for there to be some kind of overall strategic and logical battleground against which the violence is set. As with all the films in the Universal Soldier series, this is mostly a catalog of increasingly brutal fights, which are the main attraction in and of themselves.