DVD Review: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

Universal Soldier:  Day of Reckoning DVD CoverDistributor: StudioCanal

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: John Hyams

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Andrei Arlovski, Mariah Bonner

After his wife and young daughter are brutally murdered by Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme – Death Warrant/A.W.O.L.) during a home invasion, John (Scott Adkins – The Expendables 2) awakens from a coma suffering from amnesia and struggling to remember what exactly happened. But as he begins to piece together the events that destroyed his family he vows to avenge their deaths and hunt down the man responsible.

At the same time, Deveraux and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren – Rocky IV/Battle of the Damned) are attempting to build an army consisting of UniSols – regenerated dead soldiers with highly advanced skills – that have been acting as sleeper agents and free their minds from the government-controlled memories that have been implanted in them. As John gets closer to reaching Deveraux he begins to find out things about himself and calls into question his entire existence.

And by that you’ll probably guess what it is he discovers. But no matter as the journey getting to that point is a pretty intense one as Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning embraces the ultra-violent style that action films have taken in the last few years and attempts to weld a coherent plot to it.

But despite the modern feel of the action there is something resolutely old-school about the film and its overall feel, which is probably helped by the presence of Van Damme and Lundgren, who aren’t in the film as much as you would probably like but it is good to have them back nonetheless. The film is really carried by Scott Adkins as John and Andrei Arlovski as Magnus, a rogue UniSol intent on killing John, in a Terminator-style cat-and-mouse game as John hunts for Deveraux, and their fight scenes are some of the most incredible in recent memory; their battle in the sporting goods shop ends with one of the most visually impressive resolutions to any fight ever.

The one gaping flaw that the film does have is that in trying to tell a decent story amongst the brutal action there are some sections of the film where you’ll find yourself clock-watching. Running at 109 minutes the film is too long and tries to cram in a few too many emotional pulls that drag the pacing down too much for a film of this nature. This is, after all, Universal Soldier and not a deep art-house plodder.

But overall, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning does what it needs to do with regards to the action and as a film it is a well-made and exciting ride. There are more than a few passing nods to other sci-fi/action standards like The Terminator, Robocop and Total Recall which fans will no doubt pick up on and, despite the lofty ambitions of the plot and the lack of consistency in the whole Universal Soldier mythology (which isn’t just down to this film), it’s a solid action romp that’ll please fans of the genre but will probably have limited appeal to anybody else.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Special Features: Trailer, cast interviews.

UK Release Date: 11th February 2013

StudioCanal – Website

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