“Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” is either the fourth or sixth film of a series that began in 1992 with “Universal Soldier” directed by none other than Roland Emmerich. The math depends on whether two cable spinoffs count.
Either way, these bionic commandos are operating on very tired blood.
Directed by John Hyams, who directed a previous one in 2009, the film is mostly a first-person-shooter video game on the big screen that makes no attempt to connect any logic to what passes for a plot.
For actors, the film relies on action players who never met a line of dialogue they can’t kick-butt into nonsense. These would be franchise mainstays Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, back as the genetically enhanced Unisols, but mere supporting players this time to English martial artist and all-around stiff Scott Adkins.
A silly story about amnesia that may not be amnesia at all serves as an excuse to bring on one excruciatingly long but mindlessly boring fight scene after another. This, however, is not the worse thing about this picture.
The screenplay by the director and several others works as a checklist for all required scenes for any genre film. This includes that topless bar the hero must enter if he’s going to solve the mystery of who killed his family and a brothel where everyone is expressing his inner kink.
The means for severely injuring if not killing human beings include crowbars, axes, pistols, shotguns, pick-up trucks, electric drills and what’s this — a hammer and nail?
You gotta admire that old-school touch yet this too fails the challenge of being the worst thing about this film.
The film takes place in a world of dark hallways, empty streets and constricted interiors that feels severely underpopulated. This may be taken as stylization but I think it’s more a case of penny-pinching producers unwilling to hire too many actors or extras.
“Day of Reckoning” is the latest movie to cast a mixed martial artist with no discernible acting skills in the role of a brutish Neanderthal, this one being Belarusian-born Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski, a trend that needs to go way. Even this though is not the worst thing about this movie.
The film was shot in 3D but press screened by those same penny-pinchers in 2D so I can’t tell you how much the extra dimension aided this mash-up of bad vid-game effects and giggle-inducing splatter-movie gore.
The borrowings from such mighty movies as “Blade Runner” and “Apocalypse Now” only adds to one’s dismay.
Finally, the movie just doesn’t know when to end as it runs just seven minutes short of two hours. And that, my friends, is the worst thing about this movie.
Opens: November 30, 2012 in theaters; October 25 VOD (Magnet Releasing)
Production companies: Magnet Releasing, Foresight Unlimited & Signature Entertainment/BMP
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Andrei Arlovski, Mariah Bonner
Director: John Hyams
Screenwriters: John Hyams & Doug Magnuson, Jon Greenhalgh
Story by: John Hyams and Moshe Diamant
Producers: Moshe Diamant, Craig Baumgarten
Executive producers: Mark Damon, Borislav Ranghelov, Countney Solomon, Steven A. Frankel, Gregory Walker, Allen Shapiro, James Gibb
Director of photography: Yaron Levy
Production designer: Nate Jones
Music: Michael Krassner
Costume designer: Kim Martinez
Editors: Andrew Drazek, John Hyams
R rating, 113 minutes