Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the top action stars of the 80s, even though he never really reached the heights achieved by some of his competition, namely Stallone and Schwarzenegger. But he did amass a huge cult following and in the process made a few memorable films including Bloodsport, Cyborg, and perhaps his biggest hit, Universal Soldier. The film spawned a few sequels, the last of which, Regeneration, was surprisingly good. Now Van Damme returns once again for the franchise, albeit in a whole other capacity.
John (Scott Adkins) wakes up from a coma with traumatic memories of his wife and daughter being brutally murdered in front of him in a savage home invasion. The man responsible is Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and John swears revenge. But Deveraux is a former Universal Soldier, a genetically enhanced killing machine. He has gone rogue and is leading an army of UniSol’s along with his partner Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). They plan to build a new world order together and are systematically weeding out the weak and testing the strongest. And they all stand in between John and his revenge.
The funny thing about this film is it didn’t really need to be grounded in the Universal Soldier universe. They could have written the UniSol’s as regular CIA sleeper agents gone rogue and the film would have worked just as well, but I guess the franchise name helped. Regardless, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is a surprisingly strong film. When Van Damme took up the villain role in Expendables 2, it was a revelation. He made an imposing and convincing bad guy, in my opinion even more so than he ever did as a good guy. So when they amped up that badassness for this film, they made a smart move. Van Damme is a wonderful villain and is one of the craziest and most disturbed baddies on film in quite some time. Add to that a pretty cool story and a strong lead in Scott Adkins (who knew?) and you have a very demented, very entertaining sequel that I think tops all the previous efforts including the original. If for no other reason, give it a chance for Van Damme’s Apocalypse Now Brando-esque Deveraux. He just may have a whole new career ahead with roles like this.
The Blu-ray from eOne is amazingly beautiful, very unexpected for a direct to video release. John Hyams direction is highlighted by a very clean transfer with amazing clarity and detail. Even though the majority of the movie is grungy and dark, it never sacrifices picture quality for it. This is a stellar transfer of a great flick. Don’t let the fact that it is a sequel in a long line of sequels discourage you, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is well worth your time.
Available January 22, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.