'Universal Soldier' marches again, hopefully off a cliff
Posted November 29, 2012
Universal soldiers, it seems, never die, even if they deserve a slow and deliberate farewell.
Witness Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (* out of four; rated R; out Friday in limited release and video-on-demand), the latest incarnation of a low-budget franchise that has been churning out stinkers for 20 years.
Despite treating its women as props, blood as canvas and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as actors, this never-ending story of dead Vietnam war soldiers reincarnated to become turbo-killers has expelled mindless installments to theaters and video shelves since 1992.
Reckoning would be a fitting epitaph to the franchise, as it embraces all of the anger and head-turning violence of the series. But this movie suggests no visible end for our heroes Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and Andrew Scott (Lundgren), whose biceps remain more expressive than their faces.
Give Reckoning this: It at least tries to rip off good movies. We're introduced to John (Scott Adkins), who awakens from a coma to memories of his slain wife and daughter during a home invasion. Like Memento, Reckoning aims to question the validity of memory as John swears to avenge the attack and kill the culprit, Deveraux.
Reckoning also mugs Apocalypse Now's finale as John travels upriver to face the bald, painted lunatic Deveraux, channeling his best Marlon Brando. Even Deveraux's army of undead soldiers, led by Scott, looks like the zombified soldiers of Apocalypse.
But even a mention of those films in the same breath as Reckoning warrants an apology. This film is so mean-spirited and joyfully violent it reeks more of torture-porn films like Saw and Hostel than any actual film.
Skulls split, flesh opens and blood gushes like a geyser in Reckoning, which pretends to question whether dead soldiers dream. Here's one thing they don't do: move when someone hacks their forearms. Better to let the camera focus on the half-sliced bone and screaming chap who owns it.
Three-and-a-half inches of bone are about as deep as Reckoning gets, and even Van Damme and Lundgren are taking less screen time. Perhaps our walking corpses are telling us something about this tale of vague memory: Forget it.
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