Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012) – or – Violent Van Damme.

A very busy Sunday at Toronto After Dark 2012 featured the surprisingly fun and intensely violent film Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.

John (Scott Adkins) is woken up one night by his daughter, who tells him that there are monsters in the kitchen. When John goes to check, he’s assaulted by three masked men. The men murder his family before the ringleader reveals himself to be Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme). After 9 months in a coma, John makes it his personal mission to find Devereaux and make him pay for what he’s done.

Honestly, the sound of a fourth Universal Soldier movie didn’t really interest me much. The more I heard about it, the more excited I became though. The buzz was that the film was very good, and it was, but maybe not in the way that I expected. The story is very interesting, but remains a mystery for much of the film. Most of the surprises are easily figured out, but there manages to be a few moments that you aren’t expecting. It’s not the strongest dialogue around, but story frequently takes a backseat to absolutely insane action sequences.

Dolph Lundgren returns for another round in the latest Universal Soldier film.

This installment doesn’t focus very much on Dolph Lundgren and Van Damme’s characters, which is unfortunate because they’re so much fun to watch. It does allow the film series open to move in new directions, something that is quite likely going to happen with such good reaction to the film. Even though they’re in very little of the film, the moments where Van Damme and Lundgren hit the screen are filled with large amounts of evil and a knowing wink to their previous action film popularity. They’re certainly taking advantage of the success that has come from the Expendables series. Scott Adkins becomes the focus of this film, and his action scenes are incredible. This is the real reason the film is so much fun.

Van Damme is an incredible villain, oozing pure hatred with a simple look.

Action scenes are plentiful in this sequel, and they are insane. Filled with excessive blood, and some very over the top moments, it’s the strength of these moments that truly make this film what it is. Scott Adkins is unbelievable in these moments, and there is a real power to the fights that occur. You can feel the intense pounding that each character gets, and the film is worth it for just a few of these scenes. James Rawlings, who plays a Unisol in the film, and director John Hyams were in attendance and James was a joy to chat with. Unfortunately, his role is very small in the film. Perhaps if the series does continue, we’ll see more of him in the future.

It’s not a completely perfect film though. There are two moments in the movie that involve a sort of hypnotizing visual, which is basically a brilliant white flashing screen. These were painful to watch, and most of the audience did not enjoy these scenes. I know that I had to turn away because it hurt to watch. They’re interesting moments, but it would be nice if they weren’t so painful to witness. Beyond that, the film does exactly what it should. There’s an amazing villain and stunning fight sequences. Fans of the action genre should find plenty to enjoy here.

Under the marquee – Will

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