Health warning disclaimer: Do not watch if you are prone to epileptic seizures. Some scenes contain grotesque flashing lights which make them unwatchable.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning opens with a unique first person scene in which John (Scott Adkins) is trying to persuade his daughter that there are no monsters in the house. John is very quickly proven wrong by his daughter’s intuition as he is piped in the head 4 or 5 times by three masked men. What ensues is possibly one of the most distressing scenes I have seen all year. One of the men removes his mask and it’s none other than Jean-Claude Van-bloody-Damme! JCVD then kills both John’s wife and child in front of him.
John wakes up in a hospital bed with government agents probing him for information about JCVD. Hobbling out of the hospital on a crutch, he then proceeds to track down his adversary and figure out why his wife and child were killed, but not without provoking a few fights along the way.
I will leave the plot summary there. This is for two reasons: firstly, I don’t want to spoil the film’s many twists, and secondly because for most of the scenes that followed I was never 100% sure of what was going on. But do not be disheartened just yet, because in that lies a lot of the entertainment value of this movie. Whatever was happening, one thing was for sure – it was never boring.
Whether it’s Van Damme appearing in bizarre avant-garde dream sequences accompanied by seizure-inducing flashing lights, or John going toe-to-toe with a UniSol plumber who strongly resembles King Leonidas, I was always pleasantly confused and reasonably entertained.
The main attraction – and indeed biggest merit – of this second official sequel to the original 90s action movie is, of course, the violence; it boasts excellently choreographed martial arts and gunplay. Taking on more of a grindhouse feel than the previous instalments, more limbs and heads are lost and pulped than we’ve ever seen before.
Worthy of a mention are, of course, the aged leathery-faced action stars who are wheeled out inexplicably as the villains of the tale. While it’s great to see Dolph Lundgren returning after being brutally killed in two of the previous movies, I cannot help feeling disheartened by his minor part. He has, at most, 10 minutes of screen time and most of his dialogue is comprised of one-liners (however hilarious they may be), such as the ever memorable “THAT’S THE SPIRIT, SOLDIER”. I’m pretty sure the film is only subtitledDay of Reckoning because at one point Lundgren yells “DAY OF RECKONING!”.
Van Damme also appears for a disappointing amount of screen time as one of the most sadistic and motiveless villains of the year. However, both of these action greats have excellent fight scenes which make for mindless viewing pleasure.
Credit must be given to the up-and-coming Adkins, whose ever-swelling physique and martial arts still manage to stand out above the rest. While his acting (and everyone else’s) isn’t anything to write home about, it eases Day of Reckoning‘s passage, especially as one is never entirely sure where the plot is headed.
As an enjoyable action movie merging grindhouse action, full of strange avant-garde directorial decisions, Day of Reckoning does kick a fair amount of ass, in spite of the diminished JCVD/Lundgreen screen time (which may disappoint the die-hard fans out there). The major issue is the somewhat laughable and incomprehensible plot, but if you can accept it for 114 minutes and want to watch some sculpted violence Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is for you.