Review: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 27 October 2012



Not much of a direct sequel to the surprisingly worthwhile UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) but rather an experimental new chapter, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is unlike any typical sequels die-hard fans of this franchise might come to expect. Despite the return of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION helmer John Hyams for the second time, this is a genre mishmash of noirish mystery, splatter movie, action and believe it or not -- APOCALYPSE NOW-style surrealism. It's certainly a bold and daring move for John Hyams to rewrite the entire franchise in favor to bring something fresh on the table. However, despite his ambitious approach, this latest UNIVERSAL SOLDIER entry is disappointingly bloated and haphazardly executed.

The movie begins with a first-person shot from John's (Scott Adkins) perspective as he finds out his home being invaded by three masked men. He ends up being brutally assaulted by one of them, and subsequently witnesses both his wife and young daughter shot to death by Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

Nine months later, he finally awakes from a long coma and determines to seek vengeance against Luc Deveraux, who is responsible for his family's brutal death. But things get complicated when he is repeatedly pursued by a relentless UniSol named Magnus (Andrei Arlovski). At the same time, he also discovers a set of clues that might lead him to Deveraux's whereabouts. Among the clues brings him to a topless bar, where he meets a striptease dancer named Sarah (Mariah Bonner) who claims to know him. As both of them work together to uncover the truth, more mysterious things happen.

More deliberately paced than all the previous UNIVERSAL SOLDIER entries, die-hard fans might have a tough time trying to make sense with the entire going-on since Hyams, Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh's script is oddly strange and sometimes confusing. While I can say I admire with Hyams' ambitious effort of switching his tone between sci-fi, horror, action, mystery and noir in a feverish manner, the same cannot be said for his overall execution. At about 2-hour long, the movie feels too heavy-handed for its own good. Elsewhere, action fans might be distracted by Hyams' bad choice of choosing strobe lights to represent the characters' mind being reprogrammed

Still, the movie is partially saved by Hyams' remarkable display of action scenes. Even though he is granted with a significantly lower budget ($11.5 million, to be exact) than his previous effort, he still able to deliver intense action sequences that packed a wallop. Earlier scenes involving the brutal shotgun massacre at a dingy brothel and the ugly fight between John and Magnus in an apartment room are brutally entertaining. From there, Hyams gets better -- as the movie progresses further towards the climactic finale, there's a stunning car chase in the freeway and immediately follows by a fight-to-the-death scene between John and Magnus again in a sports equipment store (love the one involving the attack with baseball bats). Then there's the action-packed finale in an underground cave -- a series of slyly assembled "single-take" sequences of hand-to-hand combat and shootout scene as John single-handedly takes down a small army of UniSols. If that's not enough, there's an ugly knife fight scene between John and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

However, those who are eagerly awaited a would-be ultimate showdown between Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who caked his face with Col. Kurtz-like makeup -- don't ask) might be end up feeling disappointed -- especially it lacks that trademark splits and memorable fighting moves from Van Damme himself.

Acting-wise, Scott Adkins is quite wooden when he is required to act a lot of dramatic performances. However he comes good whenever he requires to perform a lot of physical abilities. Both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, are again, sadly reduced to glorified cameos.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING may have been a step-down from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION in term of its overall execution, this latest entry remains a fairly good time-waster. Let's hope if there's more entry in the future, the franchise is able to stay back on track.

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