Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is the fourth entry of the series about dead soldiers being turned into the ultimate killing machines. The film is a direct follow-up to the previous entry Universal Soldier: Regeneration and is directed by that film’s director John Hyams. That said, the film also works well as a stand-alone entry, which is good considering that I haven’t seen any of the previous Universal Soldier films.
Despite receiving top billing for his role as Luc Deveraux, Jean-Claude Van Damme has a greatly reduced role in this entry of the series, which has Deveraux turned from hero to villain and teamed with his former enemy Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) in the creation of an army of Universal Soldiers, who are planning to strike out against their government oppressors.
Despite receiving third billing, behind Van Damme and Lundgren, the true protagonist of this entry of the Universal Soldier series is Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2) as John, a man who is haunted by the memories of the murder of his family at the hands of Deveraux. This aspect of the film adds some horror elements that you would not typically expect in a sci-fi/action film. I should also note that the opening scene of the film, which depicts Deveraux’s attack of John and his family, is shown from a well-shot first-person perspective, which brings up memories of the opening scene from Halloween.
While, the original Universal Soldier back in 1992 was a big summer blockbuster, this film is a much more low-budget and low key film. Despite its current festival run, it seemed very obvious that the film was made with a direct-to-video release in mind. The film features some very extreme scenes of sex and violence, which I definitely expect would give the film an NC-17 if released in this form (IMDB says the film as an R rating for “brutal bloody violence throughout, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language,” though I assume that might be an edited down cut).
The film has a somewhat slow-paced plot, which almost seems like a way to fill time before the final action scene. I’m sure people might be disappointed by the fact that Van Damme and Lundgren are reduced to essentially extended cameos, with Van Damme having maybe a few too many shades of Col Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. The most annoying element of the film is a headache-inducing strobing effect that happens a number of times throughout the film. This strobing is on screen for way too long (over a minute) and I had to move my eyes away from the screen every time it appeared. I would highly recommend that you DO NOT watch the film if you suffer from epilepsy.
The film has many very brutal action scenes, most of which involve a Universal Soldier named “Magnus The Plumber,” which were probably the best element of the film. The film’s climax, which sees John fighting UniSols non-stop, almost comes off like a videogame level, with Lundgren and Van Damme appearing at the end as the bosses. It was definitely, in my opinion, the best scene of the film and it makes up for a somewhat underwhelming plot.
Overall, despite a somewhat bland and generic plot, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning still had some very impressive and extreme action scenes, which is enough for me to give it a mild pass.7 | FAIR