Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)
Van Damme and Lundgren soldier on
When one thinks of great pairings in cinematic history, certain names come to mind. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. However, for my money (which I keep in a burlap sack with a dollar sign on it), there is no greater duo than Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.
Back in 1992, Van Damme, a.k.a. “the Muscles from Brussels,” sprouted onto the big screen in Universal Soldier, alongside Sweden’s finest non-meatball or bikini team export Dolph Lundgren. Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and Andrew Scott (Lundgren) portrayed two deceased soldiers who are re-animated and turned into the ultimate killing machines.
There have been six films in the Universal Soldier franchise. Entries two through four are not considered part of the cannon, and thus not really essential viewing. I have only seen the first film (two decades ago), and now this latest installment, and didn’t find myself lost at all. So there is no need to track down all six films and stage a 10-hour Universal Soldier marathon this weekend. Although that does sound like a good time. I wonder if Mrs. Connoisseur would go for that.
Twenty years after the first installment, Van Damme and Lundgren (who also teamed up recently in The Expendables 2) are reunited in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. With a cast that also includes rising action star Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2, Zero Dark Thirty) and former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski, you can rest assured that Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning delivers plenty of bang for your buck.
Adkins portrays the hero of the film, John. The film starts in a shocking manner, as John’s wife and daughter are murdered by the hero of the previous entries, Luc Deveraux. John embarks on a mission to avenge their death by tracking down the man responsible. Along the way he is pursued by a new breed of UniSol (Arlovski) who is one of the most ferocious villains I have ever seen. Reminiscent of the T-1000 in Terminator 2, it makes sense that someone with the nickname “The Pitbull” and a storied history in mixed martial arts would be asked to take on the role. I mean, I’m sure Dame Judy Dench was the first choice, but Arlovski isn’t a bad second option.
Deveraux and the rest of the genetically engineered solders hang out in the ultimate man cave, an underground lair where impromptu fights break out to eliminate the dead weight. John eventually comes face to face with the man who ruined his life. But along the way, he comes to some startling realizations about himself that add an extra layer of intrigue to the story.
Although Van Damme and Lundgren are the two most prominently promoted names attached to this film, it really isn’t their film. The aforementioned Adkins and Arlovski both receive far more screen time. I know that it makes good business sense to tout the names of the two biggest stars attached to the project, and it also makes sense to feature these younger actors. Let’s face it, Jean- Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren won’t be around forever. Oh sure, they will live forever in our hearts and minds, in the songs people will compose about them, and the words that poets will scribe regarding their magnificence. However, until scientists get off their duffs and figure out a way to keep these two action icons alive forever, the torch will need to be passed to a new generation of soldiers. But even though I understand the reasoning behind it, I still was disappointed by the sparing use of Van Damme and Dolph. Luckily the special features include separate interviews with the two, as well as discussions with Adkins and the film’s director, John Hyams.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning will no doubt be universally loved by fans of both the stars and of the previous installments. The film just arrived on home video, so march to your nearest retailer to grab your copy today.