Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

What he said:


I was a kid when Universal Soldier came out in 1992. It is about genetically enhanced super soldiers who go haywire and start disobeying their masters (the U.S. government). Not only are these guys highly trained individuals, but they are super strong and durable. Imagine Bruce Lee with the strength of 10 men. They can punch through walls and can take an insane amount of punishment. How could I not love that as a kid?

In 2009 a sequel came out. Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a sequel to the original. It ignores the horrible 1999 movie, Universal Soldier: The Return, as well as those direct-to-tv movies that starred nobody from the original movie. Unfortunately, not many people know it exists. I didn’t until I saw it on the shelf at Blockbuster (remember those?) one day. I gave it a shot and thought it was awesome. I love the original, but Regeneration  is actually a better movie. They took and chance and it worked. The original is a classic action flick. There are lots of explosions, a couple of fist-fights, and a bunch one-liners. It is a product of the era and I love it for that. Regeneration is better movie. It’s darker, grittier, and more realistic. The series is about guys who can do all these unbelievable things, but they actually look and feel real in this movie. That’s not to say they didn’t in the original, it’s just that Regeneration took it to another level. You really believe what you’re seeing. It’s very real looking, especially for a direct-to-video movie. It’s one of the best action movies I’ve seen in years. It’s a shame it didn’t get a release on the big screen, but audiences don’t seem to have much interest in action flicks anymore.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning is a follow-up to the conclusion of Regeneration. At the end of the previous movie, Luc (Jean-Claude VanDamme) just kind of walks off into the sunset after completing his mission. He had just done his last mission for the U.S. government and disappeared after completing his goal. What he would do next was anybody’s guess. He is a weapon who has flashbacks of his past life. He’s part man, part weapon. He’s stuck in between two worlds – kind of like Robocop – and nobody knows what his next move will be.

Well it turns out Luc has been a bad boy. The movie opens up with a home invasion. A man named John (Scott Adkins) is woken up by his daughter. She said there are monsters in the house and she heard something coming from the kitchen. Well it turns out she was telling the truth, because a group of men – led by Luc – beat him to within an inch of his life and murder his family in front of him. John wakes up 9 months later in a hospital bed. Not too long after waking up, an FBI agent begins asking him what he remembers about the incident. He says everything, but is suffering from some memory loss. He only remembers snippets of his life before that. He has a few memories of certain events with his wife and daughter, but generally doesn’t remember much about his life. He begins a quest to try and regain his memories, as well as find out why Devereux killed his family.

Unfortunately for him, he has a psychopath chasing after him. He spends a large portion of the movie running from one of the UniSols (played by MMA fighter Andrei Arlovski).  This guy is an absolute beast and will take out anything in his path if it means getting his hands on John. Why is this guy chasing John and does he have a connection to Luc? Watch the movie to find out, though I will recommend the previous to get a bit of a backstory on the series.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Director John Hyams stepped into this series with 2009 sequel  Regeneration, and continues to lead with way in Day of Reckoning. Now I mentioned his movies ignore the crappy sequel and two made-for-tv movies, but they were still made. When you get this many sequels into series, that’s usually a bad thing, especially when there’s several different directors. It usually starts to enter Friday the 13th territory at that point. But this guy made several bold decisions that paid off. First, he wiped the slate clean. His movies are sequels to the original and do not acknowledge events or characters from the other movies. This was a smart decision, because those were simply bad movies, and his sequels are far superior. He also took the series in a darker, more psychological, and generally different direction. This one is a total mind bender and both his movies have really taken a look and what these kinds of experiments would do to the human psyche. Luc and his men – which includes former enemy Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) – are a bunch of psychopaths. Not only that, they are psychopaths who have the strength of like 10 men (if not more). These guys were once government operatives and they are now totally rogue, which is a scary thought. Hyams actually took the hero from the first few movies and turned him into the villain. This could be seen as a gimmick or shock tactic, but it actually makes sense. The more psychologically damaged the character became, the less he cared about being the good guy. There are actually a few little homages to Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now. It’s kind of tragic though, because Brando’s character chose to embrace his descent into madness, Luc was forced into his. In the original, he is a reanimated U.S. soldier suffering from flashbacks from his time in Vietnam. He didn’t ask to be a part of the program, the government forced him. It’s kind of a downer, but it also brings a sense of reality, which is good because the premise itself isn’t even remotely realistic. However, it’s presented in a very realistic, graphic, and believable way.

If you are a fan of old-school action movies, you have got to check this out. I recommend checking out the original and Regeneration first though, because the three movies work well together as a series.

The cast did well. VanDamme actually takes a back seat to Adkins, as most of the movie follows this John character. It was a bold move to do that, because it doesn’t always work, especially when you turn your hero into a villain. It was also good to see Dolph Lundgren back. He was great in Regeneration, but his role was brief. Some of the background characters were also fun to watch. Former boxer Roy Jones Jr. and MMA fighter Andrei Arlovski (who was also in Regeneration) fit right in as killing machines.

There’s some great fight sequences throughout the movie as well. They are totally over the top, yet very gritty and real. You won't be disappointed if you're a fan of the genre. It was a lot of fun watching these superhuman psychopaths beat the hell out of each other.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on December 3, 2012.

A word of warning to those sensitive to flickering lights, trippy noises, and other hypnotic things, this movie might make you dizzy and you might want to consider avoiding the trailer. I am 100% serious.