Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning had a lot riding on it.
The Roland Emmerich original, in 1992, was a fantastic piece of entertaining nonsense.
The 1999 sequel, Universal Soldier: The Return, only saw Van Damme returning, and was typical of many sequels that can’t be bothered to think of a plot for themselves and just copy other films as well as their prequels.
Ten years later, and then came Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which promised the return of Dolph! Hurrah! … Oh, hang on, he doesn’t even turn up until the film’s an hour old and then is quickly dispatched within 20 minutes. what a misfire from John Hyams, son of Peter, who directed Van Damme in both Timecop and Sudden Death.
Fast-forward to the present day, and in hoping Master Hyams has learned from his mistakes, we see family man John (Scott Adkins), waking up and going to investigate a noise downstairs, while telling his wife and daughter to go back to bed. On entering the kitchen, he finds not one but several be-hooded intruders, led by Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme, this time as a baddie UniSol), who all beat him within an inch of his life… and when he comes to, he see Luc murder his wife and child in the process.
Then cut to Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who’s in a private club drinking with an escort girl, while UniSol ‘Magnus’ (Andrei ‘The Pit Bull’ Arlovski, returning from the previous film, albeit ‘regenerated’) is taken away from his handyman duties and sent to deal with him… even though he was dispatched in the last one. Again.
So, at this point you’re thinking “YES!”, Dolph has turned up early on in this film, unlike the last one. Alas, while there’s a great sequel to be made to the wonderful original, for the third time, this isn’t it, and John Hyams has missed the mark again, because what you’re then left with is around an hour of boredom as John becomes drawn into investigating why some nasty murders are taking place, even though anyone who’d just come out of hospital after witnessing their family being murdered would most likely be taking it easy or seeking therapy.
There’s a twist I won’t divulge the details of, but which doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out anyway, and apart from a car chase about an hour into the film, not only does this fail to work as an engaging action film but it also fails in the 3D department. Yes, the car chase it pretty good for that, but everywhere else, the 3D gives a bit depth but doesn’t do a lot more. John Hyams really needs to watch the last two Resident Evil films if he wants a masterclass in Crash!Bang!Wallop! nonsense action in 3D. Neither of those films will win any Oscars any time soon, but they are FUN! They are ENTERTAINING! And director Paul W.S. Anderson knows what he is doing with 3D!
So, to Hyams and everyone else involved here, I’ll spell it out for you, as you clearly have learned nothing along the way. Here’s how to make an entertaining Universal Soldier sequel:
- 1. Give us Van Damme and Lundgren, TOGETHER, from the start! Battling for the whole film!
That’s it. I mean, how hard is it to make a series of action scenes with just the two of them! It doesn’t really matter that they’re both bad guys this time round, since them beating each other up is really what we’ve all tuned in to see.
The only scene of note for a scene with Dolph is a mere 3-minute fight scene with Scott Adkins. Then John moves on to have a fist and knife fight with Van Damme, who’s wearing make-up to make him look like Baron Samedi from Live And Let Die. WTF?!
And, as you may have gathered, Dolph and Van Damme never actually share screen time together in this film, unlike on the cover, making the whole thing redundant. As well as overlong at 114 mins.
Hyams and co. you have been told. Please get it right next time.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is crisp and clear, portraying the action scenes very well. As you will have gathered, I’d really recommended watching the 2D Blu-ray version, as the 3D just doesn’t cut it for this movie. As such, it loses a point there.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version and, when it needs to be loud, it’s fine, such as in the car chase, but there’s just not enough action, sadly, and so, score-wise, it has to lose out there, too.
There’s also not a lot going on in the extras department: Just Interviews, one piece from Jean-Claude Van Damme (3:20) – who looks like he’d rather be somewhere else, Dolph Lundgren (2:11) – looking a bit happier to be there, Scott Adkins (2:19) and John Hyams (11:26).
Whichever way you cut it, the first three are way too brief to be of any use, while in the last one, Hyams talks in rather a monotonous drone, chipping in “It’s something that’ll be embraced by a lot of new fans.” as well as “There are some fans of the originals that’ll *not* like this movie… because they just want something familiar.” Yep!
Plus, a Trailer (2:12), in 2.35:1.
The menu features film clips with the theme in the background, there are no subtitles (why?), as well as, sadly, a lack of chapters with a mere 12 over the 114-minute running time. What is it with studios and their love of just TWELVE paltry chapters?
Running time: 114 minutes
Released: February 11th 2013
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D))
Disc Format: BD50
Price: £13.99 (Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D); £13.99 (Blu-ray); £11.99 (DVD)
Director: John Hyams
Producers: Craig Baumgarten, Moshe Diamant and Allen Shapiro
Screenplay: John Hyams, Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh
Music: Michael Krassner
Luc Deveraux: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Andrew Scott: Dolph Lundgren
John: Scott Adkins
Magnus: Andrei ‘The Pit Bull’ Arlovski
Sarah: Mariah Bonner
Dr. Timothy Brady: James DuMont
Dr. Su: David Jensen
Emma: Audrey P. Scott
Agent Gorman: Rus Blackwell
Ron Castellano: Dane Rhodes
Earl: Craig Walker
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.