Published Oct 23, 2012If you haven't been keeping pace since Roland Emmerich's 1992 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, don't worry; no prior knowledge of the Universal Soldier franchise is required to derive base titillation from this unabashedly sleazy throwback to the glistening muscles, ultra violence and casual misogyny of yore (the late 80s/early 90s).
Even though director John Hyams picks up where he left off with Regeneration, the previous entry, Day of Reckoning works just fine as a stand-alone grindhouse answer to the Bourne franchise, mostly because there isn't much plot to fuss over in any of these ham-fisted, testosterone-fuelled soft sci-fi splatter-a-thons.
To be fair, Hyams makes a decent attempt to reframe the basic Universal Soldier story as a means of questioning the subjective reality of memory. But that minor stab at philosophy is diluted by patchwork plotting that positions Van Damme's original government automaton gone rogue, Luc Deveraux, as a spectral cult leader freeing the minds of his fellow Unisols, Morpheus-style, except with a swift neck injection in place of Lewis Carroll-indebted pill swallowing.
Despite the prominent billing of both Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, their roles are relatively minor with British martial arts performer Scott Adkins (Undisputed II: Last Man Standing) taking the protagonist mantle for this sensationalist gore-fest. As John, Adkins traverses the familiar terrain of a man trying to recover his memory after a horrific attack, only to discover that he's secretly a limb-snapping badass with a shady past.
Despite efforts to create a distinct sense of visual style early on, using a first-person perspective in the opening scene and later a recurring stroboscopic hallucination effect (epilepsy sufferers be wary), Day of Reckoning takes a while to generate interest. Though when the action ramps up, the sheer exuberant hyper-realistic physicality and highly explicit, extreme gore entertains on a purely visceral level.
Still, the film's overall demeanour is rather repulsive. Other than as an excuse to show some boobs, buns, labia, and sexualize acts of random violence, there's no reason so many poor hard working prostitutes had to meet the business end of a shotgun just so a bunch of beefy men could get their bodily fluids all over each other. (eOne)