MRR Movie Review: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

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Dolph Lungren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are back for more bloody combat in this new chapter based on the sci-fi action blockbuster Universal Soldier. In the film, a desperate band of war survivors must try to restore their shattered civilization.
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Movie Review: "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning"

-- Rating: R
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2012
Directed By: John Hyams
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller

"Universal Soldier" didn't launch the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme, but it certainly helped make the actor a household name. That film, which grossed more than $36 million in the United States alone, led to three sequels: "Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms," "Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business," and "Universal Soldier: Regeneration." Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, who starred in the original, skipped the first two sequels before returning for the third, and now the duo is back together in "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning."

The original film focused on Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and Andrew Scott (Lundgren), two Vietnam War soldiers who fought to the death before being reanimated at a top secret laboratory. In the "Universal Soldier: Regeneration," the government creates a cloned version of Scott that once again attacks Deveraux, leading to another epic battle.

"Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" introduces a few new characters, including John (Scott Adkins, "The Expendables 2"). The film opens with the man waking from a long coma to discover that someone brutally murdered his family. John suffers dark visions, which make him believe that Deveraux killed his daughter and wife. After meeting Deveraux and Scott, he begins to have different visions that make him wonder which of his memories are real.

Director John Hymas is a man who understands the world of action. His past credits include the last film in the franchise, "One Dog Day," "Dragon Eyes," and "Fight Day." He brings his experiences to this film, which will appeal to fans of the series and those new to the world of "Universal Soldier." It manages to include the action that fans really want, with the emotion and backstory missing from the previous films.

Lundgren and Van Damme are no strangers to action flicks, and the two recently teamed up for the hit film "The Expendables 2," which is slightly more entertaining than this one. Van Damme is no longer the strong and youthful thirty-something that he was when filming the first one, and time was not kind to the actor. Though he can still battle with the young guns, some viewers might wince once or twice when he tries to move as smoothly as he once did. Many fans know Van Damme for his high kicks and lower body strength, but the film expects more from him, which he sometimes fails to deliver. Lungdren, who is now in his mid-fifties, has the same problems when it comes to action scenes. He doesn't seem to move with the same grace and speed as he did in the first film.

That might be why director Hymas brought in the character of John. Adkins is a strong actor who gained fame portraying the role of Uri in the "Undisputed" franchise. The actor began studying martial arts as a teen, and he won several major competitions over the course of his career. His fact pace and bold moves are a far cry from those offered by other actors in the film. Adkins is also entertaining to watch, and he is often a better actor than Lundgren or Van Damme. It wouldn't be surprising if Adkins takes over the franchise after this one.

That is not to say that "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" lacks any value. When Van Damme lifts his leg over his head to deliver a kick into the face of a villain, his fans will remember the expertise that he showed in previous films. In "The Expendables 2," he played an almost characterized version of himself, but in this film, he gets back to what he does best. Lundgren also has his moments in the film, putting more heart and emotion into his scenes than he did in recent films.

The link between the "Universal Soldiers" films is the antagonistic relationship between Deveraux and Scott, and that continues in this one. Anyone who has ever seen the first or last film will eagerly await a showdown between the two characters. While Van Damme and Lundgren move a little slower, no one will be disappointed when they finally face each other off.

Fans looking for a classic story centering on the two main characters from the previous films might find themselves a little disappointed. Though Van Damme and Lundgren get top billing in the film, their scenes primarily occur at the beginning and the end. The director instead focuses on Adkins, but given his strength in the film, that might be a good thing. "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" serves as the perfect film to introduce a new character to the franchise while still paying respect to the characters who made the series a hit.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars