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  • Justin Louallen

Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning Written Review (Contains Spoilers)


This is a rare occasion that I talk about a movie that goes straight to video instead of in the theaters. I figured I would change things up a bit and talk about the new Universal Soldier movie that just came out a month ago on Video On Demand exclusively and it's getting a limited theatrical release coming up on November 30th, but, unfortunately I don't live in the areas that it's going to the theaters to so instead, I decided to check it out on the PlayStation Network and downloaded it for about a month and before I talk about the movie I'll give my thoughts on how I feel about the other movies in the series. Starting with the original Universal Soldier back in 1992, I thought it was a fun science fiction action movie and I liked the idea behind it which is essentially the government bringing back these dead soldiers that served in combat and resurrect them into these genetically engineered super soldiers called Universal Soldiers and it was great seeing two of my favorite action stars at the time, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren sharing the screen together and having some fun it, especially seeing Dolph wearing this necklace with ears and being in control. lol. I mean, yeah, the movie is really considered a B-movie and it has dated now, but, to this day I still find it to be really fun and a great movie with both Van Damme and Lundgren. The sequel, Universal Soldier: The Return, is really my least favorite of the series. That movie was really stupid and while it was great seeing Van Damme fight Michael Jai White (a very underrated martial arts actor), the movie was just ridiculous on how much they changed so much from the first one including Van Damme's character not really as subtle or conflicted as the first one and I was surprised that movie was even released in theaters cause there was at no point where the movie felt like a theatrical movie, it looked like a made for syfy movie with the cheesy acting and really terrible editing with it's action scenes. Then there was Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which was more or less a direct sequel to the original Universal Soldier and pretty much ignored Return. I must say Regeneration felt like an actual Universal Soldier movie to me. It went back to the roots and stuck with the original premise of the first one and it was great that they brought back both Van Damme and Lundgren again for their roles, but, my main problem with Regeneration was that it focused too much on the new soldier in the movie played by this ufc fighter called "The Pitbull' and it didnt really work for me. Though I will admit, the movie did have gorgeous cinematography and it felt like I was watching Children Of Men. Plus, I really did enjoy the fight scene with Van Damme and Lundgren again, but, honestly, it didnt really seem like they even recognized each other from the first one and it didnt even explain what happened to the necklace ears the Lundgren wore in the first one. Overall, Regeneration was a decent entry for the franchise, but it should've been better. Now, here's my thoughts on Day Of Reckoning. When I heard they were bring back Van Damme and Lundgren again for another Universal Soldier movie, I was actually really excited for it and had hope going into the next one and the director for this one was John Hyams, the same director of Regeneration and I have to admit, out of all of the entries in the franchise, this one to me stands out to most as the most interesting direction out of all of them. Now, going into this movie, it felt more like I was watching almost a strange psychological thriller than an action movie and I mean this in a good way. The movie starts as a first person view and we meet the new main character John played by a current new comer Scott Adkins, who you may recognize from movies like Undisputed 2 and as Van Damme's henchman in Expendables 2. Now this is a spoiler, so, if you don't want to get spoiled, read ahead.

***SPOILERS*****

John gets his home invaded by a group of masked men who murder his wife and daughter in front of him and one of them turns out to be Van Damme. After John wakes up after being in a coma, he decides to go after Van Damme and he starts to uncover a truth behind himself that I did find very interesting when it's finally told at the end. Now, the movie has a very slow and experimental pacing in the first hour and I really admire Hyam's direction and the very bleak tone that fits the movie's atmosphere. Although, this does become distracting in some parts because when John starts having hallucinations, he sees visions of Van Damme staring at him and the movie does feel almost like Kubrick took over the direction but it's distracting because of the strange flickers that happen in each hallucination and I'd say if you're epileptic, dont watch those parts cause it may cause seizures. Anyway, as far as the main character, I really do like Scott Adkins' performance in this movie. he does have great range and depth to his role and he's a real life martial artist too and I think he's becoming a great action star. Now, the big question is, what about Van Damme and Lundgren? Well, not really to dissapoint anyone, but, they both pretty much take a back seat into this movie much like Regeneration. however, in this one, it does feel like Lundgren is more in control like he was in the original movie and he commands an entire army of underground super soldiers and even spouts a couple of one-liners like the original and he was having some fun. Now, that's not really the same for Van Damme. To be fair, I do admire Van Damme's performance in the movie and I thought he did a great job turning his original character into a villain, but, he doesnt really have a lot of lines and really throughout it, I was kind of confused as to wheather or not this was even the same character from the other movies or if it was a clone. My theory is that in Regeneration, at the end Van Damme's character ran away and hid out somewhere and the government decided to make a clone of him and the clone went insane and became the character in this movie and it's also confusing how Van Damme and Lundgren are working with each other in this one cause it never explains why the 2 are not enemies and why they start an army of soldiers together. Now, again, as far as the direction of the movie, I must admit, the movie has very beautiful cinematography and they have shots that almost feel like a David Lynch or Kubrick movie especially this scene where Adkins walks down this hallway and the music playing is very dark and mellow and it really fits in the atmosphere of what hyam is trying to make. The story itself is nothing really special, but, it almost feels like I was watching Apocalypse Now when it gets to the end and it was like Van Damme became Marlon Brando with the shaved head and all and Adikins being in the Martin Sheen role. Also, the fight scenes were well shot and edited and the violence is pretty brutal in a lot of scenes and there was a single take in one shot where Adkins runs around shooting a machine gun and the camera stays behinds his back in one long take, similiar to Children Of Men. It was great seeing Adkins have pretty much 2 final battles at the end when he fights both Lundgren and Van Damme and the fight scenes are well edited, however, it could've used less slow motion because the fights do tend to go on a long time instead of using quick cuts and while it is better using slower cuts, the pacing could've been faster. Overall, as a new entry to the Universal Soldier franchise, this one is well made, it has great performances from Adkins, Van Damme, and Lundgren, the music is very intense and moody, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous to look at, the fight scenes are creative and very brutal, but my only complains was that the movie should've had a better story going for it instead of just being a revenge story for Adkins and the movie could've had more screen time for Lundgren and Van Damme, but, I'd say for a direct to video movie, it does have high class for itself and maybe there will be another Universal Soldier, but until then, just hope they can do something different and get things going again and I'd say rent it when it comes out on dvd or watch it on netflix. Overall, good film, could've had more potential. My rating: 6.75/10.

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