did Luc Deveraux go from being the hero of the original Universal Soldier to the messianic villain of the latest
installment? One can hardly tell from
the five previous of films. While only
two or possibly three are considered “canonical,” none bear much narrative
relationship to each, besides some shared names and unreconstructed 1980’s
style action. At least 1999’s The Return had Kianna Tom and the latest
outing recruits Scott Adkins. Somewhat
fittingly, the action star of the future is out for revenge against an action
star of the past in John Hyams’ Universal
Soldier: Day of Reckoning (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
night, Luc Deveraux broke into innocent citizen John’s home, killing his wife
and daughter and leaving the man in a coma.
When John comes to, he is interviewed by an FBI agent, who conveniently
points him in Deveraux’s direction. Of
course, the audience can immediately tell it is all an implanted memory designed
to turn John’s into a vengeful tool of the government. Nonetheless, the opening segment’s violent
cruelty is a definite buzz kill.
John proceeds on his manipulated mission, Deveraux and his band of rogue
Unisols try to stop him with a series of hallucinatory messages and some
straight forward muscle provided by Magnus, one of the most recently “awakened”
Unisols enlisted into Deveraux’s doomsday cult.
While Deveraux and his apparently immortal former nemesis Andrew Scott have developed a
serum to counteract the Unisol programming, it appears its net effect merely
switches their blind obedience to Deveraux, himself. Frankly, there seems to be plenty good reason
for the Feds to be hunting Deveraux, regardless of their methods.
some reason, a number of critics have embraced Reckoning even though it merely revisits the same sort of terrain
John Frankenheimer’s infinitely superior Manchurian
Candidate first staked out decades ago.
At this point, the film’s moral ambiguity and government paranoia are so
old hat, they are just plain boring.
bringing in Adkins helps. He will be
making action films long after his above-the-title Expendables 2 co-stars. Playing
to his strengths, there are a few nifty fight sequences, including a
particularly well choreographed melee in a sporting goods store. As Adkins’ baseball bat wielding opponent,
former UFC Champ Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski nicely steps into the Randall “Tex”Cobb-ish
role of Magnus.
Watching Adkins and Van Damme have another go at
each other is certainly entertaining, but Reckoning
lacks both the slickness and the self-awareness of a quality B-movie
beatdown like the old school Assassination Games. Hyams (son of Peter) seems to want to do Universal Soldier as adapted by Philip K. Dick, but most fans would
rather see the Golan-Globus version. Not
nearly as original as believes it is, Universal
Soldier: Day of Reckoning (or UniSol 3½)
is only recommended for hardcore Adkins and franchise die-hards when it opens
this Friday (11/30) in New York at the Village East.
Labels: Action films, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Universal Soldier