Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Blu-ray Review
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is the fourth official installment in the franchise, after 1992’s original, 1999’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN and 2009’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. (Two direct-to-video sequels, released in the late ‘90s, aren’t officially apart of the series.)
DAY OF RECKONING, like its predecessors, stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Luc Deveraux, a Vietnam veteran who is reanimated as a UniSol (that is, universal soldier) by the government. This time around, family man John (Scott Adkins, THE EXPENDABLES 2) is putting the pieces together on what happened the night he was attacked and his wife and daughter were murdered. The masked gunman removes his disguise and reveals himself as, of course, Deveraux, bald, scowling, and entirely inhuman.
On the trail of John is UniSol Magnus (Belarusian mixed martial artist and former UFC champion Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski, who on more than one occasion resembles a King Leonidas stand-in). Why? Well, if you’re actively watching the movie, it’s clear from the first act.
Meanwhile, the MIA Deveraux and fellow UniSol Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren, who appeared in all of the UNIVERSAL SOLDIERs but THE RETURN) unite to plot a liberation of other soldiers and start their own unit bent on national anarchy.
The biggest problem with UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is that there just isn’t much screen time given to Deveraux. While the movie does want to stray away and make it about John’s hunt, fans of the series will still be disappointed that the biggest name and head on the poster is so seldom seen. He has an effective intro and a random appearance around the 45 minute mark, but then doesn’t show up again until the last 15 minutes.
Another alluring factor is the note that DAY OF RECKONING was initially given an NC-17 rating and had to be recut for its theatrical run. (That reediting turned out to be pointless, as Magnolia only had enough faith to release it on three screens, where it grossed just over $5,000.) The official MPAA rating attributes the R to “brutal bloody violence throughout, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.” (The poster may also catch the attention of anyone who wants to see Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins reunite.)
Throughout the franchise’s 20-year lifetime, the filmmakers (whether that’s directors Roland Emmerich, Mic Rodgers and Hyams, or any of the multiple screenwriters) have made Deveraux a fully developed character, perhaps Van Damme’s most memorable. He has gone from confused and curious to witty (by action movie standards) to broken to, here, a man confronting his own deterioration.
DAY OF RECKONING is directed by John Hyams, who, having also helmed REGENERATION, has a firm grasp on where the franchise needed to go. If there are more installments, the studio should make them better available to the fanbase. If not, it ends where it should.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. The high-definition transfer of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING features strong detail and color balance throughout.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a strong, steady track, presenting the dialogue, sound effects and score in complete clarity.
Commentary with director John Hyams and Dolph Lundgren: Although the inclusion of Jean-Claude Van Damme would have been welcome, this is still a strong track between Hyams and Lundgren, with the pair touching on a number of topics (some of which are covered in the below documentary).
DAY OF RECKONING: The Making of US4 (1:20:15): This feature-length documentary is broken down into three parts: “Coming Into Focus,” “There Is No End” and “Production Wrap.” Every aspect of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is covered, from the plot, cast and script to the visual effects, stunt work and set design. This is a must-watch for fans.