Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

PREVIOUSLY, ON UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: In 2009 John Hyams, fine sports documentarian and son of the director of OUTLAND, knocked the world of DTV flat on its ass with a grim and shockingly great part 3 (or part 5 including the made for cable 2 and 3). It is one of its decade’s best American action movies and a classic example of a hungry artist taking a disrespected medium far beyond its perceived limitations. Also Dolph Lundgren makes a hell of an impression with a small appearance, the Alec-Baldwin-in-GLENGARRY-GLEN-ROSS-of-DTV.


Hyams returns, this time in charge from the ground up instead of coming on and reinterpreting someone else’s script. (He wrote this with DRAGON EYES assistant editor Doug Magnuson and his documentary producer Jon Greenhalg, story credited to Hyams and long-time Van Damme producer Moshe Diamant.) REGENERATION took us off guard because nobody expected a new UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movie to be that serious and that well made. But even now that we thought we’d caught up, this installment is a total surprise. Who would’ve thought the next one would be this?

Unlike the rest of this series, DAY OF RECKONING pretty much feels like a horror movie, so it’s fitting that it opens with a reverse of HALLOWEEN. Instead of a first-person shot of a clown-masked kid stalking a house, it’s the POV of a dad woken up by his daughter who hears “monsters.” Humoring her he gets up and looks in the mirror, and you see that he’s Scott Adkins. You are Scott Adkins. But before you get to enjoy how awesome it is to be Scott Adkins you come across actual intruders in ski masks who, you know, do bad things. And the leader takes off his mask and stares into your eyes and holy shit, he’s Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the hero of the rest of the series. Now it looks like he’s the villain.

Van Damme is pretty fuckin scary in this movie. He’s not the lead anymore, he’s the hard-to-get-to guy everybody talks about, like John Connor in the future. He’s bald and he looks tired and his eyes look completely devoid of emotion other than bitterness. There’s a physically painful burst of strobing video noise that ends on that face, appearing to you like a ghost, looking you in the eye. It’s like when he snapped in REGENERATION and started beating up that innocent old man that looked at him. But this time instead of a random beating he’s planning an organized, premeditated attack on “our oppressors.” We don’t know if this means just the scientists who turned them into zombie super soldiers, or all of the living people. I hope it’s the first one because I am a living people. I don’t want to have to deal with this.

The movie doesn’t follow Deveraux, it follows Adkins’ character John, who wakes up in a hospital 9 months after the attack. Agent Gorman (Rus Blackwell) of the FBI asks him what he can remember, shows him a picture, tells him it’s Luc Deveraux. He remembers the home invasion and not much else about his life. He limps home on a cane to his sad, empty house to think about his family and what to do.

It’s a mystery story. We don’t know who this guy is and neither does he. He follows some clues: a panicked phone call, a phone number on a matchbook, stuff like that. Starts to piece together things about himself: he’s a truck driver, he has a cabin somewhere, he was dating a stripper (Mariah Bonner – she’s good, but I wish somebody would give her a box of donuts), alot of people are angry at him, turns out he has beaten various people almost to death. So they’re uncomfortable around him, you know?

From the beginning we don’t know who or what to trust. We don’t know what is real and who is being honest with him. We don’t know if he’s being mind controlled and if so by which side. And he keeps getting into situations that are rife with tension because everybody else in the room knows something he doesn’t, and he thinks he has to play along.

This Agent Gorman guy, he seems nice, but we’ve been around the block, we know that doesn’t mean shit. And after talking to John, Gorman makes a phone call to someone to “put the plumber to work,” which leads into an outstanding sequence pitting two great characters from REGENERATION against each other. Remember, Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski was the Terminator-like next gen UniSol bad guy in the last one? Now that guy – or more likely a clone of him – has a beard and is working as a plumber when some kind of signal to his brain sends him to kill the latest clone of Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). Dolph looks like a no-makeup version of some larger-than-life SIN CITY anti-hero when we first see his giant shoulders from behind, wearing office clothes as he hangs out in some weird whorehouse where Unisols go to be hit by hammers and shit. (Reminds me of the House of Pain in BLADE 2.) They’re not people, they’re weapons, and maybe this is their only outlet for the ol’ sado and maso while they “hide among them like ghosts” waiting for the titleistical day, as Scott says in a big rallying-the-troops speech.

REGENERATION was noticeably influenced by ALIEN, ALIENS, THE TERMINATOR and CHILDREN OF MEN. DAY OF RECKONING kept making me think David Lynch – that nightmarish, ominous tone of LOST HIGHWAY and MULHOLLAND DRIVE, the heightened atmosphere that makes you always feel like something is off, reality is out of alignment, and something terrible is most likely gonna happen very soon. I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me think of that (I don’t even know Lynch’s movies very well) but it starts with John waking up in a foreboding lab, a weird nurse with an obvious wig feeding him baby food from a tiny spoon. “We’re doing great, aren’t we?” she says when a doctor asks John how he’s feeling. “We’re eating our food.”

Hyams has cited Lynch, Gaspar Noe, Michael Haneke and David Cronenberg as big influences on this one (the Noe is easy to spot). You’ll notice more ROPE-style continuous-shot action that shows he still loves CHILDREN OF MEN, and the movie draws obvious parallels to APOCALYPSE NOW with its handling of Deveraux. But I think all of these influences inform what comes together as a distinct style and feel that’s not just mimicry. REGENERATION, DRAGON EYES and DAY OF RECKONING are all very different takes on action stories, but recognizable as the work of the same mind.

And you know me, I love that he does all this experimenting in genuine balls-to-the-wall action movies. Some people have been turned off by the movie’s deliberate pace and its atmosphere-and-character-driven start, not to mention its allegedly confusing story (I don’t really agree with that description – it’s a mystery what’s going on, then you find out). Some, not yet won over by Adkins’ body of work, are upset that Van Damme and Lundgren aren’t in it that much. For those people I have great news: Just in the last 5 years Dolph has had the starring role in 5 movies you could watch, Jean-Claude in 4, each with several more on the way. You will technically get more screen time with them, and the stories and characters will be exactly what you expect, no more, probly less, just like you demand. You will not be asked to puzzle anything together, you will not be left with questions, everything will be fine.

The sacrifice you make though is that the action in this one is way better than in THE KILLING MACHINE, COMMAND PERFORMANCE, DIRECT CONTACT and ASSASSINATION GAMES. This reminds me of the lady that wanted to sue DRIVE for not having enough car races. I don’t know why people prefer the standard noisy, poorly done action to long, intense, brilliantly done scenes that have some build up to them first. No, DAY OF RECKONING doesn’t have cars exploding in every scene, but you gotta be crazy to think it’s skimping on the goods. There’s a shockingly brutal whorehouse shootout between zombie super soldiers, a thrilling one-man siege on a military compound done as if in one shot, a TERMINATOR style car chase/shootout, and face offs in every combination you want from this set of actors: Arlovski vs. Lundgren, Arlovski vs. Adkins, Adkins vs. Lundgren, Adkins vs. Van Damme. (Van Damme already fought Lundgren and Arlovski in the last one.)

The fights are all excellent, especially the one in the sporting goods store where John suddenly gets the eye of the tiger or realizes there’s no spoon or becomes universal and knows every move to make. The fight choreographer and stunt coordinator is Larnell Stovall (UNDISPUTED 3, NEVER BACK DOWN 2), making this something of a DTV superteam (though I don’t classify it as DTV since it’s gonna play in some theaters this month). Like with Stovall and Hyams’ work in DRAGON EYES there’s a huge amount of damage to furniture and structures. Fists and axes going through walls, heads smashing into mirrors and windows, backs through shelves and tables. You can’t have the punches connect every time, so instead you apply the damage to inanimate objects to give an indication of what might’ve been. But there’s also a huge amount of bodily damage.

I know CGI blood gets a bad name, but this one has some seriously upsetting head shots and other wounds. Do not assume all fingers and toes will remain attached to their owners. The version I saw was cut to get an R-rating, and it’s look like they must’ve earned that NC-17.

But in a John Hyams movie it’s not just the incredible Boyka v. Pitbull fists-and-bats fight that’s great (although that’s an obvious highlight), it’s also the look of horror on the woman’s face when she’s standing there watching her guy destroy the other guy. It’s not “hooray, we won,” it’s “oh shit, do I really want to leave with this guy?”

So it’s helpful that this is Adkins’ best performance so far. It really starts out as a drama for him. In his second scene he’s in a hospital bed and has to process the loss of his family while barely able to speak. In fact most of his scenes are very low on dialogue, high on dread and creepiness. It’s so effective I didn’t notice how long it took to put him in a fight. And I think if he didn’t have the muscles then some people might see this thinking he was just an actor and be shocked when he starts doing flying kicks.

I heard from some of my fellow internetists who saw this at Fantastic Fest that it was a big what-the-fuck headscratcher of a bad movie. You may have seen the review on Badass Digest by Brian Collins (of Horror Movie a Day), Ethan Saathoff (aka Sam Strange) and FILM CRIT HULK (GUY WHO WRITES IN ALL CAPS). They all loved REGENERATION but not this one. I was so confused by their confusion with it that I started writing a point-by-point response to theirs as an appendix for this review, then I decided that would be overdoing it. But since they’ll be reading this here are nine quick points for them (skip this numbered list if you haven’t seen it ’cause there’s SPOILERS):

1. Dolph is obviously a clone like he was in the last one, there is no need to explain this

2. I think I speak for the world in saying that no, Ben Affleck would not have been a better star for this particular movie

3. I don’t know why Brian considers Arlovski the lead of REGENERATION, I’d say it’s clearly Van Damme, with Arlovski as the monster, basically

4. Yes, it is a whorehouse for UniSols, they make a point of showing the scars on the backs of all their necks (from the removed chips) and I believe the desk lady may even recognize John from one or more of his previous clones coming in there.

5. Hulk says “there isn’t a moment where you understand what anyone wants or why.” (lower case mine). Not true: John wants to remember who he is and get back at the guy who killed his wife and daughter. Complications ensue. That part of it is very traditional. And Hulk’s definition of what’s dramatic clearly can be broken since he ambiguous “good guy” or “bad guy” status of the factions he’s stuck between is part of what makes it uniquely compelling.

6. The guy has scars because he’s the guy John has been told he beat almost to death in the parking lot. That’s the reason for all the weird tension with the foreman, the scarred boss, the guard dog, the bouncers in the earlier scene. That it’s unspoken is what makes it awesome.

7. The shipment did have bearing on the story, it was the lab equipment that the government was trying to stop the rogue UniSols from getting, which ultimately falls into the hands of John, it seems from the ending

8. He can walk around with the hole in his head because he’s a UniSol, and also it’s been established in this one that they can now grow back fingers and toes

9. John is not a “wuss,” he’s a UniSol made to think he’s a regular guy, by having memories. It’s a movie about what it means to be human. I bet you guys love that shit in BLADE RUNNER but because this is called UNIVERSAL SOLDIER you don’t want to deal with it.

As you’d expect, there are also plenty of people on IMDb that hate this movie. Differences make the world go round and what not, so I don’t want to imply that not liking this movie is for weiners. But I don’t like the way some of these criticisms put limitations on what an action movie is allowed to be. Remember when the FRIDAY THE 13TH producers met with Tarantino and it was rumored for about a day that he might do part 11 I believe it was at the time? Everybody says well, of course, he would never lower himself to do something like that. But my dream is that some day somebody will. Somebody that would say look, I like this series, but I think I can do something different with it, I can elevate it, treat it like my next film and not just the latest installment.

Hyams wasn’t Tarantino, he was a rookie, but to me he created something like that, he said watch me take this lowbrow series, a DTV sequel that nobody will even notice, and pour everything I got into it. Give it a different tone, do fights and chase scenes way above the modern standard of quality, invest JCVD and Dolph with a poetic dimension of tragedy that was never acknowledged in this premise before. It’s a way better version of the fun action movie Roland Emmerich made, but adds a commentary on the endless cycle of war and the toll it takes on the souls of soldiers. It transcends DTV, sequels, and Universal Soldier itself. (Also it’s awesome.)

So REGENERATION took us all by surprise, but it seems to me like most of the negative DAY OF RECKONING reviews I’ve read are by people disappointed to be surprised again. This time they wanted the same thing as last time. So many of the complaints are the exact things I think are cool about the movie, or at least things that aren’t inherently negative: yes, it’s more of a noir mystery and horror story this time. Yes, Scott Adkins is the main character, JCVD and Dolph are in supporting roles, and are different from the last time we saw them. Yes, the UniSol technology has evolved and there’s not a scene where a guy in a lab coat specifically reminds us of the cloning process and acknowledges that they no longer need to be cooled off or wear eye pieces. It’s a totally diferent movie but with the same seriousness and assumption that there are people who would watch an adventurous, genre-busting, thoughtful UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 6. People like me.

I love this movie. I couldn’t help but watch it twice during the 2-day VOD rental period, and I’ll watch it again November 30th if it plays in 3D here. You gotta respect that it’s the fifth sequel to a Roland Emmerich movie but it’s complex enough to reveal more over multiple viewings.

I’m a fan of the series and I gotta call bullshit on anybody acting like Hyams pulled an ALIEN 3 and killed Newt and Hicks in the opening credits. I don’t believe that Luc Deveraux is a beloved character to you, and if he is then you must know that his portrayal has never been consistent. In part 1 he was a fish-out-of-water somewhat comic character, an unfrozen Vietnam vet. Parts 2-3 he was played by a different guy. Part 4 he was Van Damme again, but alive and normal and with a daughter! Part 5 he was the grim walking-unexploded-ordnance that was so cool and now he’s maybe even more dangerous, but it’s ambiguous (a good thing). That each sequel is so different is part of what I enjoy in this series, and this episode’s premise even implies a partial explanation for that: some of what we’ve seen could be implanted memories. Maybe that’s how a dead guy got a daughter.

But hey, if that’s too much for you they also got a UniSol driving around with a human woman helping him figure out the world. A nod to part 1 for you Emmerich devotees.

Movie fans always complain about cliches and remakes and unoriginality, but at they same time they want to know exactly what a movie is gonna be before hand and they get mad if it challenges those expectations. Sure, this is a big left turn from the other ones, but it’s not HALLOWEEN III. It’s a logical extension of what could happen further down the line, with the inhuman Deveraux able to regain free will but not humanity.

And actually maybe not free will. That’s one of the movie’s interesting questions. A scientist brags about creating something that simulates free will. Scott promises the plumber freedom when he releases him from government control, but the next thing we know he’s in a mob roaring allegiance to his new leader. (And after his big speech Scott turns around and he looks sad. I don’t know why, but I love it.)

How do you get your human rights when you’re really weapons, people liable to beat each other to death over a bottle of water? And if your past experiences make you who you are then what do you do when you find out yours are made up? That Hyams can ask these questions in such a legitimately ass kicking action-horror-sci-fi-noir movie is what makes him so great.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 at 2:21 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

192 Responses to “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”

  1. Great review…great movie. The rated version misses a few nice things, so definitely go for the unrated to enjoy the whole badassery this is!!!

  2. My brothers

    Let’s not forget the awesomeness of this film.

    Let’s not let our thoughts be interrupted by uncomplimentary voices.

    We will live among them like ghosts, biding our time.

  3. Great review! I thought it was great too! I’m actually surprised with the amount of fan hate this movie has gotten. I guess people just don’t like to think anymore. They would just rather watch the same sequel get made over and over again like most directors would have done.

  4. One Guy from Andromeda

    November 3rd, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Sounds very interesting. This didn’t only convince me to watch day of reckoning but also regeneration.

  5. »I guess people just don’t like to think anymore. They would just rather watch the same sequel get made over and over again like most directors would have done.«

    As one of the people who thinks this movie is laughably bad I’m a little astonished about the assumption that someone who dislikes this movie doesn’t want to think or is not open-minded enough. I also »didn’t want to see REGENERATION again« or can’t get over the »surprises« this movie has in store for me.

    If I’m trying to look at this movie in the most positive way I would say that John Hyams is a good second unit director with a talent for showing fight scenes in a very solid way, somethig that isn’t common anymore. But other aspects of the movie like the script, the casting or acting and especially the pacing and storytelling are simply terrible. It’s easy to say this is done on purpose, because it’s an arthouse action film noir horror mixture. Not in one moment that movie worked for me in any of it’s genres, especially not in the parts that you need a good script or actors for, like the film noir.

    It’s nice that Hyams has seen APOCAPLYPSE NOW or a movie by Gaspar Noé, but he can’t just lift elements from these movies in an underwritten B-movie-mess and get away with it. Or maybe he can, if I get from many commentaries on this website or even Vern’s review.

    What he has done is obviously more than most of the other DTV director’s have done: he showed ambition. It’s good to praise this ambition, but I don’t think it’s good to let get this out of proportion. If somebody tells me that TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is the ending of action cinema and DAY OF RECKONING is the best action movie of the year I have a hard time to understand this on a non-emotional level.

    Okay, the fight scenes are good. Not every fight scene has to be as spectacular as those in THE RAID, so it was quite refreshing to see these simple, brutal fights.

    But as I was not emotionally envolved in the characters or the »mystery« I couldn’ get much out of it. On a pure visceral level the simple fights in FASTER (I’ve seen this movie yesterday and liked it) or the visual poetry in the IN HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE like beach fight in HAYWIRE did way more or me.

    I hope we can at least agree that the car chase in DAY OF RECKONING was terrible.

    I don’t have a problem with you guys enjoying or even loving this movie, but I don’t think it achieves the high or even basic standards of filmmaking that should leave you completely baffled that somebody don’t get’s this.

  6. VOD is asking for $10 for the rental. I’d rather spend that $10 on one of the rare big screen showings of this movie that are going on in or around NYC. If only I could find one.

  7. Great review, saw it in Toronto at the After Dark film festival, thought it was a great movie, at no point did I have any problems following along or was bored. Maybe people have forgotten what a movie is or should be a compelling series of events that lead to a big payoff, and the last 3rd of this movie is one big long payoff,the best fight scenes I’ve seen in a movie in quite along time.

  8. Anyone know how/when this is gonna come out internationally?

  9. this totally blew me away and the 3d was so awesome… JCVDs nose comin’ at ya etc. i was extremely confused when negative reviews started popping up. my only complaint was the strobing in 3d in a theater was mind melting. i think this movie legitimately needs a seizure warning.

  10. Great review Vern, I love this movie. It is one of the best films I have seen this year. RECKONING is an ambitious psychological thriller/action film that has a tone and mood of a “Giallo” combined with some amazing action sequences. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get the chance to see it in a theater presented in 3D the way it was meant to be seen.

  11. @ Andrea

    Ok, so the assumption was pretty big on my part. It’s just that most of the negative reviews that I have read from fans of the franchise have pretty much just crapped on it for having too much story and not enough action. That, in my mind, means that a majority of the haters just don’t have the patience to sit through the story as it unfolds. Sounds like it just failed to miss all the marks for you. Me personally, I do feel that this is the best action movie of the year. I enjoyed the story, pacing, different genre vibes, etc. I felt that Hyams created a much better and more ambitious film with $11 million then 99% of the big budget garbage that Hollywood pukes out. Sucks that you didn’t like it though.

  12. * Andreas…sorry.

  13. Do we have to wait for the Blu-ray to see the Unrated cut or is there a VOD option for it somewhere?

  14. So I’m one of the three guys on that Badass Digest review mentioned in this article. I feel I’m being misrepresented a bit here and would like to clear a couple things up.

    Mostly, I want to make clear that I liked this movie a lot, even though my entertainment stems from its rampant abnormality, which you may see as insincere or smarmy. We disagree on the script’s successfulness big time. I think we share the same understanding of what Hyams tried to do; I just don’t think he succeeded. This debate alone makes this film far more valuable than Regeneration, a film I truly love, and I can’t wait to revisit it after reading all these positive reviews.

    But I really wish to address this assumption you’ve made where my lacking appreciating for Day of Reckoning means I must also not be into action films that take risks or do interesting things. I’ve seen those Van Damme/Lundgren films you listed (that’s actually not true – I haven’t seen Direct Contact) and like them a lot (especially Assassination Games). Of ALL the films which played at this year’s Fantastic Fest, this was my number one must see because I was so enamored with Regeneration. I was not expecting a repeat of that film, merely a film linked to it narratively. Those narrative links I was looking forward to required a bit too much assumption on my part to actually feel like a sequel, which really did catch me off guard. The notion that a whole film could be missing between this and Regeneration strikes me as too factual to even be considered a criticism. Nevertheless, I was buzzing all over the place about this film when it ended.

    I don’t think Day of Reckoning is a good movie. But it’s a film filled with very bizarre choices, and that makes it something even more interesting. With something this ambitious and atypical, it seems there should be room for disagreements that don’t end with such rash judgements about the other guy.

  15. I don’t have access to Videos In Demand or whatever because I am a Brooklyn hipster with no cable, so it looks like I’ll just have to wait until the theater. It is infuriating that there are still no official showtimes, but I guess they’re worried about scalpers buying up all the tickets ahead of time for what the media (emphasis on the “me” in “media”) are calling “The Badass Event Of The Year (Except For THE RAID, I Guess).”

    It’s appropriate that this review should drop today because it’s Dolph Lundgren’s 55th birthday. It also happens to be the 92nd anniversary of Charles Bronson’s birth. Throw in Tom Savini and Brigette Lin and you can see why I’m nominating November 3rd as International Bad Motherfucker Day.

  16. So Andreas hated this movie so much he went back and watched the part he walked out on? Hmm, that sounds fishy, because I remember this:


    I have a feeling you’ve never seen the 2nd half of this movie and thus have no idea what you are talking about.

  17. Mr. M, it is available on VUDU, and Amazon Streaming. You can even use the link Vern provided.

    Also, I am sad to report that I saw THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS and it was a big disappointing post action mess. Any action fan planning on seeing the film would be much better served to spend their money on RECKONING in-demand.

  18. Charles- I wouldn’t go so far and label IRON FISTS ‘post-action’. The frame is really cluttered, yes, but RZA gives the big moments enough room to breathe. He seems more comfortable with the posing and stances than the actual fights, yes, but the fights had plenty of fun stuff too.

  19. That Badass Digest roundtable conversation/review was painful to read. Those guys, Mr. Saathoff included, just don’t get it.

    There’s room to criticize this movie, especially for the

    1. excessive violence that assumes a [robotic? zombie-esque? unthinking clonal?] level of desensitization among the killers & the audience
    2. the draggy, uneconomical parts in the middle section (Do we really need to see dude back out of his driveway, sit silently behind the steering wheel, and pull into a parking space for the next scene?),

    but after my skepticism built for most of the first 80 minutes, I was shocked at how awesomely & weirdly it all paid off in the extended finale[s].

    Twice, Evan calls John (Scott Adkins) “a wuss.” You didn’t pick up on the fact that John discards his walking cane in the process of getting kicked out of the club? And that this healing ties into his fingers being regenerated (which admittedly didn’t make a lot of physical sense since it looked like that bandage was wrapped pretty tight on his hand)? And that this ties into his *snap* moment in the sporting goods store fight, when he very suddenly & very clearly regains his full spin-kicking robotic psychosis abilities?

    He progresses, from 9 months (*NEWBORN SYMBOLISM ALERT*) coma/gestation,
    to waking up to a confusing world,
    to suffering the pain of his previous life (which wasn’t his) (*ORIGINAL SIN / SINS OF THE FATHER REVISITED UPON THE SON SYMBOLISM ALERT*),
    to being actually injured/handicapped by his memories & the sins of his creator/freedom-giver,
    to healing from these injuries (no longer a wuss, becoming an adolescent, learning about the world, regaining his abilities in a trial by fire when he chops off Arlovski’s foot),
    to self-discovery,
    to self-denial,
    to self-confrontation,
    to self-denouncement,
    to self-healing,
    to self-obliteration,
    to an explosion of anger at the world (Frankenstein’s monster? Modern Prometheus indeed.),
    to an awesome violent finale with bullets, grenades, machetes, and a miraculously gore-soaked visage in a bloody tank top that completes the visual circle to suggest the womb from which he was birthed at the beginning of the movie — note the APOCALYPSE NOW-esque voyage upriver, not unlike a sperm in a fallopian tube, and the finale’s setting in an underground cave (compare to imagery of THE DESCENT or IRREVERSIBLE, for examples).

    Alright, you have your homework. Now go back and rewatch this motherfucker, motherfuckers.

  20. Brendan, there are some big moments as you put it in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FIST, but most of them are delivered in tight or obscured shots and are presented in a series of quick cuts instead of as part of a visually cohesive presentation. The ideas and concepts presented in the fights are more often than not awesome, but the presentation is really bad and even more puzzling considering the RZA is such a student of classic Kung Fu films.

  21. I saw THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (probably walked a total of five or six miles to do it, too, then took a bus all the way from Midtown to Brooklyn through the power-outaged sections of Manhattan with spooky red flares every ten feet and National Guard trucks all over the place), and while I wouldn’t call it post-action, the fights are framed a bit too tightly and edited a bit too fast. I wonder how much of this has to do with a short shooting schedule and lack of funds for digital cleanup on wirework, etc. It’s not Corey Yeun’s choreography itself that’s the problem, but I imagine there were some problems in executing it effectively that demanded they use shortcuts to make it work. But the movie is still incredibly entertaining, less so for the action and more for the intricate weirdness of the characters and the environment.

    Also I’m totally cool with Russell Crowe becoming the Oliver Reed of our day. That much ham needs to be put to good use.

  22. Maybe I am misusing the term post action (and if so my apologizes), but either way the action in the film was handled really poorly. I agree that Russell Crowe was the best part of them movie, dude seemed like he was having a blast.

  23. Charles, thanks for the info, but I’d still rather wait for the theater. Or, barring that, the unrated DVD. I’d rather not spend money on an inferior product just out of impatience, especially since I know I then wouldn’t pony up to see it in the theater and thus wouldn’t be supporting the return of badass cinema to the big screen, which is a cause that means a lot to me. Is there a petition I can sign?

  24. Oh, and I think there’s a slippery slope when defining post-action. I thought it came down on the side of “classical action not executed very well” and not “shot like crap on purpose,” which is what post-action means to me.

  25. Makestyk sums up my thoughts on post-action. I thought IRON FISTS was just a little too ambitious. He tried to cram in every fighting style he possibly could, but wasn’t quite experienced enough to have the camera as far back as he should’ve. But I still really enjoyed it. I don’t know, I think I just got swept up in the energy of the film so I let some of my hang-ups slide. It’s gorgeous, and everyone in it is just having so much FUN.

  26. You’ve probably already read in other reviews the names of several movies that seem to have influenced UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING or at least share a visual/tonal sensibility:

    And I read a couple blurbs referring to parts that would make Nicolas Winding Refn proud, so I guess that covers his whole oeuvre, especially VALHALLA RISING in my opinion. Kind of an incestuous tree of filmatistic influences going back to Francis Ford Coppola & Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece[s].

    To this list of influences and films with similar elements, I might add:

    COME & SEE
    Lucretia Martel’s THE HEADLESS WOMAN

    All these comparisons can give you a lot to think about as a serious film fan.

    But what’s great is, UNISOL: D.O.R. is also utterly unique. It clearly shares a lot with the movies mentioned above, but it’s also the first & only action-noir-nightmare about comically muscular zombie-clone-mind-controlled-but-philosophically-curious supersoldiers, or at least the first one I know of and surely the first that’s ever been so beautifully filmed with such great fight choreography. And definitely the first to be in 3D (hopefully in a theatre near me)!

    DAY OF RECKONING is like a more thorough exploration of Dolph’s interrogative philosophical rantings in UNISOL: REGEN. In the previous Hyams movie, that stuff was just a sideshow aspect, a reminder of the potential depth of the storylines & themes of zombieism/clones/nightmares/mind control, a bonus in the screenplay that hinted at or fooled you for a moment into thinking you were watching a psychological drama, but in D.O.R. it’s everything.

    And yes, ***SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER*** it’s hilarious that Dolph is again offed via comically ridiculous head impalement.

  27. Forgot to mention DEAD MAN’S SHOES, (*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SHANE MEADOWS’S EXCELLENT MOVIE 2004 MOVIE DEAD MAN’S SHOES WHICH YOU SHOULD TOTALLY SEE IF YOU LIKE UNCOMFORTABLE BADASS CINEMA*) another violent, semi-aimless revenge nightmare that deals with a figment of the protagonist’s imagination and his fractured memories of the innocent, helpless loved ones who kept him human before he became a ruthless killing machine.

  28. Evan, as a fan of Sam Strange it’s great to see you here, even if it’s to set the record straight. I dug yesterday’s piece on INSURRECTION. Great call on TNG being like Christian Lit. As far as analogies go I think you can get a lot of mileage out of it, seeing as you can use TREK to trace the Boomers’ shifting sensibilities, thus explaining why later series were so bland and boring (this coming from a guy who loves later seasons of TNG and DEEP SPACE NINE).

    But this thread isnt about that, so forgive the digression folks. As for DOR, I haven’t seen it yet, so I have no dog in this fight, but I will say that as far as polarizing films go this one’s fascinating. Rarely do I see so many reviewers I respect disagree so vehemently. For now I’ll let you all sort it out, but I do have one question for anyone who’s watched the flick: were the driving scenes really as plentiful and boring as Annalee over at io9 makes it sound (Mouth, it seems like even you may agree with that one). I suspect many of you will have different takes on that one, but it was such a glaring critique that I thought I’d throw it out.

  29. Vern, OLEG thanks you for this glowing review!

    I also loved the movie, the story seemed pretty clear to me and I did not miss a thing (unlike our friends from BadAss. Thanks for stoping by Evan.) JCVD’s character seemed to be tired and broken in Regeneration, so I was happy to see the filmatists take it two steps further with the uprising angle in DoR. Also the clone thing was explained in Regeneration too, so no problem there.

    All in all a great action movie.

  30. Just finished watching this, and I liked it a lot. For some time I thought this was a movie about an amnesiac coming to realize that he was a monster (would have been good!), but then more reveals followed… Highly unpredictable and utterly unique. I like John Hyams and his distinct vision quite a bit, but sometimes I wish his films weren’t so humorless. The grim tone dampens the sense of fun, which leads to some semi-dull passages (in this one as in DRAGON EYES). Pacing is not his strenght, but there is so much else to enjoy, so it hardly matters.

    I don’t see how this has anything whatsoever to do with film noir, by the way. Scott Adkins character arc has next to nothing in common with that of a Noir protagonist. I’m scratching my head trying to think of something else this may have in common with noir, but I see nothing…

  31. There’s only one superfluous driving scene, Bad Seed, and it’s only like 30 seconds. Not sure if Hyams was going for a “lull you to sleep with normalcy & the banality of injured John’s skillset & his slow journey to discovery before the next big reveal builds the spooky mystery” kind of thing, but it struck me as fat in the narrative & runtime.

    And yes, most of the car chase is not that awesome; it gets repetitive, and had me internally yelling, “How many times do they need to hit each other’s broadsides? Hasn’t anyone seen COPS or WORLD’S WILDEST POLICE VIDEOS (great show, by the way)? Do the fishtail, dude!”

    But it’s well filmed, with what looks like real live traffic & road obstacles, and it ends spectacularly and leads to a GREAT fight in which I think Scott Adkins punches a flying bowling ball into dust.

    Minor flaws & all, this is an extremely entertaining movie.


    I wonder if the FBI agent guy purposely designed John’s brain & family memories so that when he underwent brain surgery (partly performed by JCVD’s son, by the way), it would cause him to snap like he did. Like, if the physical design of the implant was like a fancy safe that when a burglar starts to drill into it, it has a sheet of glass that breaks and causes the 2ndary & tertiary locking mechanisms to further secure it from the inside.

    It seems likely in retrospect (though there is still a lot of mysterious potential here, if your brain can handle not having everything spoonfed to you like in 99% of movies) that Agent Gorman was pulling the strings from the beginning, saying just the right thing to John to piss him off, presenting just the right evidence
    (You’ve got a photo of his wife & kid’s killer already in your pocket and you already know all the answers but you still ask this poor victim in his state? Really?)
    and guide his journey toward Luc Devereaux
    (maybe the government had totally lost him and needed a secret double-agent insider clone to do their dirty work before they all got RECKONINGed by their creations).

  32. Mouth – I’d add Scanners as another influence on this movie. Great review Vern, been waiting for your thoughts on this, I think you nailed it. Also, I loved the notion that even though John knows his memories are false, made up to put him on his path of vengeance, they are all he has, and even though he knows that Devereaux didn’t actually kill his family (as they never existed) the power of the emotions/memories coursing through him compel him to confront Devereaux anyway.

  33. Great review, Vern. Can’t wait to get this on Blu-Ray.

  34. Good call, MikeOutWest.

    Also, it’s

  35. Hey thanks for commenting Evan, I was hoping you would show up. I’m sorry to have misrepresented you, it does sound like you liked it more than what came across in your review, which is understandable since that was obviously a post-screening discussion and not a straight review. I think I blew it but I was honestly trying to not accuse you, Brian and HULK (and Andreas here in the comments) of being action philistines. I made a point of mentioning that you were fans of REGENERATION, a favorite of most people around here. I have respect for all of you and we’re probly in agreement more often than not.

    So I was trying to be respectful in saying that I think some of the criticisms, not just the ones from you guys, put limitations on what a movie like this is allowed to be. I just don’t think there needs to be a rule that it can’t skip over a bunch of time between the movies and have things be very different. (Then again I also liked that ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO seemed to skip a movie after DESPERADO which it referred to in flashbacks. So maybe I’m weird.) It wasn’t what I expected either but I like that about it and I thought it really worked to put me off balance and give me things to piece together. But I guess if it threw you off that much that it was hard to enjoy I can’t argue with that.

    Since I loved this movie so much and thought some of the things you guys seemed confused about were pretty clear (who the guy with the scars was, why Dolph was alive) I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from, so I appreciate your further explanation here.

    And if any part of this was too harsh toward people who didn’t like the movie please believe I’m talking about some nitwit on IMDb user comments. I get mad when they complain about Dolph not having enough screen time in this or REGENERATION, ’cause in both he does so much more with the part than he has with his recent starring roles (some of which I do like).

    If any of you guys end up seeing it again later for some reason I’ll be curious to know if it plays differently. I can see how seeing it in a pumped crowd (and uncut, and in 3D) might be different from me watching it alone at home.

  36. Nice interpretations Mouth and others. I definitely got the sense while watching that the ole Tibetan Book Of The Dead story was being played out in metaphor as well. See DEAD MAN for a filmic example or William Burroughs’ THE WESTERN LANDS for advanced reading.

    Not that I dispute your birth interpretation, Mouth. Im happy to belive its about both things at once and in parallel – the life journey of the newborn and the quest of one who is already “dead” from the start to find peace and move on. That would certainly tie it nicely back to Noé’s ENTER THE VOID.

  37. Bad Seed – I can only think of two driving parts, both of which I thought were cool. One is a very propulsive cut from Adkins realizing what he has to do to being headed in that direction, it got me pumped both times I saw it. But yes, they are very mood and tone setting scenes, showing movement along with the sort of John Carpenter/Steve Jablonsky type of low-electronic-tones scoring that Hyams likes. So if you weren’t into the movie then yes, it would bore the shit out of you for the 10-20 seconds that it’s on screen.

    It’s definitely not approaching the amount of driving in GHOST DOG, which I also love.

    Forrest – Well, he’s a morally ambiguous character trying to solve a mystery, going to seedy bars and warehouses, there’s a mysterious woman, there’s a crime boss who he crossed, the tone is pessimistic and it doesn’t end with good overcoming evil. And I did a search for film noirs about amnesiacs, and came up with SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT, STREET OF CHANCE, THE BLUE DAHLIA, and the trope was picked up in neo-noirs MEMENTO and MULLHOLLAND DRIVE.

    Also, from Wikipedia’s entry on film noir: “Amnesia is fairly epidemic—’noir’s version of the common cold’, in the words of film historian Lee Server.”

    Of course that’s just one of the influences, it gets into heavy sci-fi, military and horror stuff that is not in a standard noir.

  38. I completely disagree. This movie was total nonsense to me. Not because I wanted to be surprised but because it felt like one big experiment at the expense of: #1 continuing the story I actually liked in Regeneration and #2 any sense of an actual story. I get the horror movie thing but are you trying to say that’s what made it a good movie? If it was an actual horror movie I would have called bullshit after Adkins family was killed and all we got was his absolutely boring journey. Yes, the action looked good.Since there wasn’t much of it that’s not saying much. This movie felt like an expensive student film where Hyams basically used every camera angle possible to show he’s ready for the big leagues. I’ll just deal with being absolutely clueless about the love for this one.

  39. Hell yes, Vern. I’m glad to see you heaping praise on this film. It’s really great, and aside from the strobe effect making me feel very weird and uncomfortable (which was, I suspect, the purpose) I enjoyed every second of Day of Reckoning.

  40. I was just as impressed with this one as I was Regeneration. I think Adkins is a welcome choice for the series to go on with. Actually I took it as Van Damme and co. being good guys who just want to be left alone by the government but said government can’t leave well enough alone and because of so many attacks on Devereaux they, the UniSols decide to fight back. So they invent the Scott Adkins line, in a lot of ways this is a reasonable conclusion next step .

  41. Haven’t seen the movie but wanted to mention that Dolph Lundgren’s official Facebook page quoted you and linked your review on their latest update.

  42. Vern: Yes, amnesia has popped up in many a film noir. The point I was trying to make was that the noir protagonist tends to be on a journey that can only lead to a negative conclusion. It may start close to the bottom, but from then on it’s all going downhill. I don’t see that in this one, though judging from your post you read the ending slightly different from me, so that’s probably why we see this differently. I should add that in the end, I don’t think it is of much importance to try to identify all the influences. The film itself is what matters, and Universal Solder: Day of Reckoning stands on it’s own two feet as a unique movie from a filmmaker with a clear vision, rather than being something that feels like a dull combination of better movies.

    It would be cool if you did a noir series by the way. After all, many of the cheaper ones can only be considered the DTVs of the 40s-50s. To those interested, I highly recommend James Naremore’s book on film noir. And Paul Schrader’s famous essay, “Notes on Film Noir”.


    John snapped because he made the decision to not lose the memory of his family, because for him it was real, no matter what everybody else told him. He did not want to lose his family, thats why he kills Luc in the end, it is part of his reality that Luc killed his Family, so he had to die.

  44. MikeOutWest already brought that up, sorry, I did not see his comment before writing mine.

  45. Mouth – Just for the record: I didn’t hate this movie, I just think it’s not a good movie, therefore I’m surprised by the praise it get’s from so many people whose knowledge and opinion I respect. Maybe I’m not able to translate more nuanced thoughts into the english language.

    And yes, I was so curious that I’ve watched the rest of the movie. (The first time in my life I used a not completely legal way to watch a movie, so much about my curiosity.) On a regular basis Vern’s reviews or the fascinating discussions in this place had the effect that I’ve rewatched a movie and was able to see something that I couldn’t see the first time, because I was in the wrong mood or was not open enough.

  46. The real day of reckoning will be on Tuesday, when the future of the 100000000000 teleprompters in Washington is to be decided.

  47. Just caught this one, I thought it was great. Excellent fight scenes, lots of gore and some creepy David Lynchness (the meat locker/office scene was awesome). What’s not to love?(!)

  48. Great review as always Vern. I freaking loved this movie in all it’s Lynchean-Kubrickian weirdness (though Arlovski’s “here’s Johnny” moment was a bit too on the nose). One thing that put me off though: the ‘cave’ set in the finale. I mean, I’m not expecting some Lord of the Ring, WETA masterpiece cave carving or whatever but jesus, this one was so bad it gave those old timey Star Treks episodes a run for their money. Once I noticed the painted sheets passing for rock actually flapping around during the fighting, I couldn’t stop noticing it and took away some of the Adkins badassness going on around it. Seriously Hyams, you come up withe great weird meat locker and you can destroy a sportinggoods store, but you need to work on your cave sets, man. They suck. Good job on everything else though.

  49. What makes it so different is part of what makes it such a great flick.
    I’ll probably catch it in the theater, too.

  50. Well, this just entered my official frothing-at-the-mouth list up there with LINCOLN and SKYFALL. Actually to be totally honest I think I’m more excited about this than anything else this year. Gaspar Noe does hardcore action? Obviously I or someone else has been sacrificing the right things to the right god.

  51. The only thing I did not understand was why Magnus kept coming after John? He had been converted by Scott, so what was his reasoning for wanting to take out John? Orders from Luc? Help me out here.

  52. Really good review of a brilliant action film Vern. Good job calling out that ridiculous Badass roundtable even if it did make them defensive and they don’t get what you said.

  53. jar (formally Dan)

    November 8th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    i haven’t been around for a while, but once I finished watching this one I knew exactly which site to visit. I had a pretty great time watching this movie, my gf hated it because she had no idea what was going on (but enjoyed the fights). which version did I watch? it seemed pretty goddamn violent to me, so can I assume I saw the uncut film?

    I feel like there is so much left to be uncovered on repeat viewings. subtle touches like (as you said) Dolph’s face abruptly changing post speech. I’ve never been blown away by Adkin’s acting prowess, but my goodness does he ever become a scary motherfucker in the 3rd act.

    someone hire Hyams for big budget action flicks, the man knows his way around an action scene. it’s so refreshing to see a truly invigorating fight scene in a modern movie, especially scenes at this level of brutality.

    excellent review Vern. I’ve missed your style, and I’ll stick around this time.

  54. I got a chance to talk to Peter Hayams briefly today and he gave a big shout out to Vern for “Putting us on the map” with his review of Universal Solider: Regeneration and a nod to Mouth (by name!) for defending the movie on this board.

  55. Finally, evidence of the “Vern DTV Bump” that I have long suspected.

    Also, shoutout to my boy Mouth for being famous now. Don’t forget the little people.

  56. Dolph also told me what his character was thinking in part 3 right before he got whacked.

  57. I loved this goddamn movie, I understand why some folks found the tone confusing but I’m at a loss why the narrative was at all. I hope I don’t have to cross the 49th and drive all the way to Seattle to see this in 3-D but I will.
    ^Tawdry^ any chance of this secret being shared with the rest of us..?

  58. There will be “Undisputed 4”.


  59. This film was great, one of the best films I’ve seen for a long time. When watching it you need to sit down and get fully immersed and listen. I have read lots of reviews and it irks me seeing people say this is a pile of s@%t, At its core its a story, not an action film, you need to listen and follow. If you want to sit down and stare at the screen then put Seagal on. But this takes concentration and you go on the journey with the protaganist as he pieces it together. Every single aspect is well done. Its genuinely creepy and reminds me of the atmosphere created in films like the exorcist 3 and session 9 which really drew you in and gave a feeling of unease, that something is wrong and offkey. John Hyams deserves a shot at a big budget. And full credit to Van Damme who despite being mostly silent (he acts well facially and expressively though) is taking on some quality roles in the last few years and showing he can act well.

  60. The Original... Paul

    November 21st, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Anybody know if this one has got any kind of a UK opening anywhere?

  61. Big ups to my boy Tawdry for brokering the burgeoning buddyship between me & my new close personal friend Peter Hyams.

    For real, the Hyams clan can do wrong — I have said nothing but nice things about

    CAPRICORN ONE (RRA is with me on this one, a forgotten gem)

    All worthy movies, and I plan to peep THE STAR CHAMBER soon.

  62. ahah. i got the name wrong. I meant John Hyams. Doh!

  63. It’s cool, Tawdry. Obviously, I am now close personal friends with both Hyamses, père et fils.

    The younger seems like a more spry, willing sparring partner, and I’d love to fight him (nonstriking above the neck), though Peter must be the one who has massive forearms (based on his longtime steadicam excellence), but I’m down with all apostolic namesakes so long as they invite me to their next premiere gala. Or as long as they keep making awesome movies.

  64. So it has been confirmed that Germany gets an uncut home video release, with the highest possible rating. Got no idea if it’s gonna be the R or unrated version, though.

  65. There will be a unrated, uncut Version. I placed an order for the “for rent” Version, before the FSK Assholes put it on
    the Index. I will get my DVD somewhere around 12.18. Can´t wait.

  66. The google machine uncovered a couple articles of interest:



    I’m not sure I’ll be in the US when this gets its [tiny?] theatrical release. Fuck you, travel scheduling gods.

  67. Don’t worry, Mouth. I’ll be at the one theater in New York (the artsy one in the Village) playing it on Friday night. I’ll put an extra set of eyes on for you.

  68. Good looking out, Majestyk.

    Our friend Evan Saathoff / Sam Strange is at it again:


    If I’m reading this correctly, this guy Evan wants there to be either voiceover/onscreen text exposition or some random sidekick character who pops up regularly during DAY OF RECKONING in order to say shit like,
    “Boy, things sure have changed since that incident in Ukraine 4 years ago, huh? I hear Luc Devereaux went rogue when he discovered those scientific experiments that produced the chemical key to controlling UniSols and now he’s underground somewhere, but I also hear he sometimes appears in people’s visions. . .”
    “So, John, now that the government competes with the underground rebel faction of UniSols for the future of the technology…”
    “So, Magnus, you’ve given up plumbing so you can go to the local UniSol hangout, huh? I hear that’s where UniSols go to get laid, but it’s not like regular human sex, because they’re not really human, so they do weird shit like poke holes in their hands. You’ll see when we get there. Oh by the way, you haven’t been having any weird daydreams, have you? Cuz I hear that’s how Luc Devereaux contacts people like you and gets them to go do his bidding, like assassinations…”
    “I hear the new generation of UniSols, thanks to advances in genetic engineering & chemical immuno-biochemistry, now have the ability to self-heal at a rapid rate. Here, watch me cut off a piece of tissue and see it repair itself like Wolverine, cuz this might be important later in the movie and I don’t want anyone to be surprised or have to think for themselves for a minute without having it spoonfed to them ahead of time…”

    and other such bullshit that would ruin the movie’s atmosphere and thus the movie itself.

    I don’t understand how any of this would be an improvement at all.

    I’m infinitely glad I was expected to pick up what DAY OF RECKONING was laying down. No, I don’t feel like there’s a movie missing between it & REGENERATION.

    And I’ve never that big a fan of JCVD or Dolph. Most of their movies suck (though most have at least 1-2 highly entertaining scenes to redeem the experience) and they’re usually not very good actors, though they are great presences. I enjoy certain scenes in some of their movies. Though you might have a complaint with the marketers who designed the posters & ads, it’s not a big deal that their roles in DAY OF RECKONING are not those of headlining stars.

    In fact, it’s preferable. It makes more sense this way, because now indeed Devereaux/JCVD (both character & actor)
    (especially when this is all viewed via the meta prism that considers the place of & commentary made by D.O.R. within the wacky UNISOL series)
    is a *presence*.

    Dolph Lundgren — as a mysterious clone zombie leader with ambivalent feelings & motivations and a sense of fatalism that fits both his personality and his ironically repeatedly terminal role in the infinity of this series -– is a *presence*.

    The roles fit. Form follows function. Function fits with the amount of screentime.

    How does someone who sort of appreciates this movie & the series, and who obviously expends a lot of energy trying to understand it all, not see this stuff? How does one arrive at complaining, or finding inexplicable, that they don’t have more scenes?

    Do people complain about APOCALYPSE NOW because Marlon Brando doesn’t show up until the last act?

    And the last section of Evan’s article here is all over the place, but I like how he seems to be trying, except it’s weird because he asks the wrong question, then asks the right question, then gives himself (and his readership) the totally wrong answer, then finds the correct answer, then dismisses it because it happens at the end of the movie in a way that Evan rejects
    (because he’s not paying attention to the creator-Frankenstein / God-Adam&Eve / Oracle-Neo dynamic? Devereaux does what he needs to do to spur John into action, then he tests his warrior skills, then he allows John to finish him. Maybe you’ve seen STAR WARS? Remember how Obi Wan Kenobi dissipates honorably rather than continue to lightsabre-fight? Or Seagal’s death at the end of MACHETE? Or any number of seppuku moments?)
    and doesn’t answer the wrong question he had from the beginning of the movie when he had no answers (because, remember, the movie, unfortunately, doesn’t answer all questions in the first 5 minutes, and dares to let silence speak & hint at the truth throughout).

    Anyway, weird review, weird conversation on a weird movie. The movie definitely wins this round.

  69. There is a podcast of a great interview with John Hayms discussing RECKONING and the US franchise over at Grantland.com. Unfortunately, I am not tech savvy enough to figure out how to properly copy and paste a link for it into this talk back but I highly recommend it.

    Here is the info to google:

    Alex Pappademas and John Hyams
    November 28, 2012
    Alex Pappademas talks to John Hyams about re-imagining a 90’s action franchise with the surprisingly great– and surprisingly dark– Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

  70. I am happy to find myself on the side of the cool kids on this one: DAY OF RECKONING is indeed a singular film experience full of visceral impact, droning dread, and psychotronic weirdness. As someone mentioned, it was more like a SCANNERS movie than a UNISOL film, but with more brutal, bludgeoning brawls than that description would entail. It felt like Ty West made a kung fu movie. I loved it. Maybe I don’t have a problem with the fact that it deviates from the last one because it’s not like I had a strong connection to the storyline or characters from REGENERATION. I loved the tone, the vibe, the attitude, the flavor of the violence, and the atmosphere of the world. All the stuff that, in REGENERATION and DRAGON EYES, were relegated to side dishes in a more standard genre package were now the whole meal. I’m not sure if it’s as good a movie as REGENERATION

  71. In honor of East Village being one of maybe 2 (two) (goddamn TWO) locations in the world you can see the motherfucker, Village Voice keeps doing interesting things to bring attention to DAY OF RECKONING and make it relevant to other topics of note in the realm of badass cinema:

    Nich Schager: http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-11-28/film/john-hyams-is-the-best-action-director-working-today/

    Chris Packham: http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-11-28/film/to-see-the-fights-universal-soldier-4-demands-you-suffer/

  72. I am happy to find myself on the side of the cool kids on this one: DAY OF RECKONING is indeed a singular film experience full of visceral impact, droning dread, and psychotronic weirdness. As someone mentioned, it was more like a SCANNERS movie than a UNISOL film, but with more brutal bludgeoning than that description would entail. It felt like what might happen if Ty West made a kung fu movie. I loved it.

    Maybe I don’t have a problem with the fact that it deviates from the last one because it’s not like I had a strong connection to the storyline or characters from REGENERATION. I loved the tone, the vibe, the attitude, the flavor of the violence, and the atmosphere of the world. In DAY OF RECKONING, all the stuff that was relegated to side dishes in a more standard genre package in REGENERATION and DRAGON EYES is now the whole meal. Hyams really let his freak flag fly on this one and it was a joy to see. Finally, somebody is taking some chances with the action genre, having the nuts to risk pissing off the core audience in the name of finding a new way to do things. Horror likes to do this once a decade or so, but action always plays it safe. Hyams ain’t having that shit. He followed his weirdness wherever it led and dared us to keep up.

    Still, I’m not sure if it’s as good a movie as REGENERATION (the existential turmoil of the one-act Beckett play about immortal cyborgs locked in an unending cycle of conflict and obliteration that ended the film will be hard to beat) but it’s just the kind of eerie brain-melter I wanted. I particularly liked how there’s almost no way to see this story as anything but a victory for evil. The hero of the series is defeated by a cog of the machine, a cog who accepts his brainwashing without question even when he knows what’s been done to him. I don’t know what Devereaux’s plans were, but he’s always had a core of decency in every iteration so I like to think that it wasn’t world domination. He just wanted justice for his kind, and they killed him for it, and they made you complicit in his downfall by making this movie’s protagonist do it, knowing that you’re just as brainwashed by the fascism of the “hero is always right” paradigm as Adkins is by the phony baloney boilerplate “They killed my family and I must get revenge” backstory they implanted in him. Hyams used the standard mythology of action cinema against us and made us root for the villain. I love that shit.

    I’m hoping this is the downbeat EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Hyams UniSol trilogy. I want Adkins to lead the revolution next time and take down the whole fucking system. But however Hyams chooses to go, I’ll follow him. He’s earned that right.

  73. Sorry for the weird double post. I like to think it’s the narrative doubling back on itself and making you question everything that came before.

  74. Nick Pinkerton: http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-11-28/film/movie-violence-has-never-been-better-mdash-or-more-reckless/

    And some asshole nobody’s ever heard of posted something quasi-relevant a few months ago: http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-08-22/film/action-movies-don-t-have-to-suck/

    Much ink being spilled on a worthy film, yet I fear the box office #s will make Mouth cry.

  75. Clearly, no one was hoping to make any money off of the theatrical release, if the crowd of 20 people at the showing I saw was any indication. But as a publicity stunt, it seems to have done its job, getting so-called reputable critics who ordinarily wouldn’t even know of the existence of a sixth UNISOL film to write some really insightful things about it. How many people are going to read all this stuff and immediately check it out on whatever other format is available to them? I’m betting lots. And with a budget in the low double digits and no marketing expenditure to speak of, that smells like profit to me.

  76. RECKONING actually got a theatrical release here in Austin, but it is only as a midnight screening and it is not being presented in 3D. I guess I should be happy that we are one of the few cities to be included in the limited theatrical release of the film, but I think it sucks that it is not being shown in 3D. I am still going to try and see it to support the film. I am hoping that if it has a strong enough limited release they will expand the theatrical release and it will be available in 3D.

  77. I also saw it in 2D. 3D is often distracting so I didn’t really mind, but there were definitely parts that would have been cool to see popping out of the screen.

  78. In the podcast I provided a link to Hyams says that the only reason RECKONING is getting a theatrical release is because it will get the film covered and reviewed more in the press by receiving a limited theatrical instead of it if it just came out on VOD and DTV.

    Mr. M, Hyams sights Cronenberg as a big influence for RECKONING in the interview.

  79. Mr. M, in the podcast Hyams states that the villains in his Unisol films are the government that are manufacturing and enslaving the Unisols. In that respect the story is not “ a victory for evil”, but one about being freed from evil.

  80. But who gets freed? John does what he’s told. The freedom fighters are all dead. His identity is a lie. Even his symbolic revenge against the government agent is pointless, because another one instantly takes his place. Clearly, they figured John would react the way he did and they planned accordingly. It all played out exactly the way the assholes wanted, and now they get to keep doing whatever the fuck they want. If that’s not a victory for evil, I don’t know what is.

  81. I guess I can see your point, (SPOILERS) but if you look at John as an infant who has been bread for violence then lied to so that he would be manipulated into committing violence to complete his mission it could be viewed as a small victory because at the very least John is free of his oppressors. Also, as Mouth alluded to I don’t think John defeated Deveraux as much as Deveraux saw John as a more powerful and worthy successor then allowed himself to be vanquished by John so that John could assume his role as leader of the uprising. The government may have succeeded in eliminating Deveraux, but they ended up giving the Unisol underground an upgraded and superior model of their old leader. In that regard the uprising is stronger than ever.

  82. DAY OF RECKONING is only $6.99 for a 24 hour rental from iTunes in HD.

    “…if Ti West made a kung fu movie…”
    Yeah, I guess that is apt. My opinion is limited to HOUSE OF THE DEVIL

    (Can’t yet bring myself to boogaloo electric with CABIN FEVER 2, since the 1st is a movie I hated & thoroughly regretted watching in real time, and I haven’t yet found myself in the mood or proper circumstance to watch a simmering mystery-horror movie like INNKEEPERS or West’s early works other than the first time I watched DAY OF RECKONING instead.)

    but now I remember it’s true that West doesn’t shy from showing a gunshot straight to the face and so forth.

    Unflinching violence and brutality. Violence & action unimpeded by camera tricks, and only slightly aided by a minimum of editing & steadicamming. Call it “libertarian violence.” Hire the right people for the job, and then just keep the government shaky cam demon out of our lives action scenes and we’ll be happy!

  83. Charles: Good point. Evil has one for now, but they’ve potentially sown the seeds of their own destruction.

  84. Did I seriously just write “one” instead of “won”? Time to return that master’s degree. It’s clearly broken.

  85. SPOILERS. Majestyk said, “Even his symbolic revenge against the government agent is pointless, because another one instantly takes his place.”

    That’s how I read it the first time I watched – you can shoot them down but there will always be a replacement. But the second time I realized that the replacement came out of John’s vehicle, so I think what it means is that he chose to lead the Unisols and they’re using the cloning equipment for some new revolution that includes replacing agents like him.

  86. The government might be the antagonists, ultimately, but I choose not to interpret that to mean that they’re the bad guy. I’m not seeing any evil here; lot of gray area, lot of contortions & distortions. You can be the villain but still be on the right side of history. Just ’cause you use questionable tools & genetic experiments & zombies doesn’t mean you don’t have good intentions, a greater goal for a peaceful hegemony.

    Besides, what are we gonna do, let the Soviets win the UniSolology race?

    Maybe in your pinko worldview, everyone should have equal access to UniSols, or maybe we shouldn’t even be dabbling in zombie supersoldiers. But where I’m coming from, that’s not an option, hippie.

  87. Vern: You know, I thought there was something up with the vehicles, but then I figured I was just confused. That’s a much more upbeat reading of the ending than the one I had. It makes sense, but what threw me off was that Agent A just didn’t seem as bummed to be having his brains SPOILERED out as you’d think he would be if he was just a normal guy and not another in a long line of clones. But I guess maybe his professional pride in his creation overcame his sense of personal safety.

  88. (SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and more SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    In the finally when John executes agent Gorman he is the one that replaces Gorman with a clone. John is already putting the pieces in motion for his revenge.

    One thing that really resonated with me watching RECKONING a second time that I didn’t really pick up on as much it the first viewing is when John has the chance to have the false memories implanted in his head removed to be free of the pain they cause him, he chooses to keep the memories because even if they were fake they felt real to him. They gave him an identity, and having something he loved and lost made him more human than the other clones. If he had allowed them to remove the memories he would have been free of the pain they caused him, but he would have become just another one of the empty soulless monsters like the other Unisols. Also, the pain of those memories will be what continues to fuel John’s revenge.

  89. *Preemptive spoiler for next UniSol movie* John finds out his fake wife is very much alive and working for the government as a scientist on the UniSol project, drama ensues.

  90. But they can reverse the process like in THE RETURN.

  91. Was lucky enough to catch this for free on HDNet movies on DISH this weekend (I love how they do that)- and even though my first reaction was of confusion, unease, and basically “What the fuck did I just watch?” I’ll admit to it having stayed in my thoughts all weekend, and I’ll also admit that I’ve gone back and re-watched each action scene at least four times. They’re that good.

    I know I said that Regeneration was “The Dark Knight of DTV” since it added ambition, seriousness, class, production value, and beautiful cinematography to a respect-less genre. But now I’d add Day of Reckoning is really The Dark Knight to Regeneration’s Batman Begins. Things like traditional structure, traditional pace, and accepted notions of good-and-evil all go out the window. It’s a challenging film, a hard film to like, definitely not one to “enjoy”.

    Mouth hit the nail right on the head – this is basically a feature-length version of Dolph’s haunting monologue in the last movie. The Kubrickian shots, strange pace, and weird sound design (and the mind-numbing strobe light effects) really gave this one a dream-like quality that I would have hated if i wasn’t prepared for it. I still think it’s a little too long, Dolph’s “comic” acting is a little out of place, and I’m not going to lie – I really hope the next one will be more like Regeneration and less like this, but this is definitely an amazing film.

  92. Not sure if this has been linked to yet (and my apologies if it has) — http://collider.com/john-hyams-universal-soldier-day-of-reckoning-interview/216308/#more-216308

  93. Hey, that’s Tawdry’s. Good article, bud. Thanks for the shout out.

  94. i’m new to the universal soldier franchise. my prejudice against this film going in was practically poisonous.

    and yet i couldn’t have been more tickled by the manchurian cantaloupe contrivances, nor more willing to forgive however nakedly it snaked elements from this-gaspar-or-that-coppola.

    i haven’t been seized by the urge to recommend a film to friends as strongly all year. while i’d hesitate to nominate hyams as “best director” on an offical poll ballot as vern did, the enthusiasm for this film caught my attention and i’m glad he did.


  95. That’s a strong first post. I’m pretty sure most of us round here went in expecting genius, so it’s cool to hear from the other side, the people who were like, “What’s this? A Jean-Claude Van Damme movie? In 2012?” I’m glad it worked out for all of us.

  96. I’ve finally seen this film and I had no fun.

    I don’t like to be spoon feed my entertainment, but i don’t like pretentious shit either. I thinks this movie falls somewhere in the middle of that.

    This was pretentious, but honest about it, but clumsy in it’s execution… let me explain.

    The big twist? Revealed in the first 10 minutes: He was a cloned Unisol who was supposed to kill Luc Deveraux. Then, the movie spends an hour and a half pretending that you don’t know it and tryin’ to unravel a mistery that’s not even one to begin with.

    I liked that there’s no good guys here, just people (in this case, clones and reanimated super powered corpses) doing their thing, tryin’ to find out what the hell is their place in this world. However, I like to be invested in a character, and I (and this is all me, so it’s ok if you don’t feel the same) like to root for the good guy. Here, being that there wasn’t one, I was not invested at all in all the awesome fight scenes. I couldn’t care less who got killed or who didn’t.

    I got that, even when it was clearly explained to John that he wasn’t human, and was just a tool for the government to get rid of this crazy murdering zombie psychos, he clinged to the notion of being one and having had a family and a life of his own because what was the alternative? That was nice, but i couldn’t identify with his struggle. Sadly I’m a human, not a unisol with implanted memories; well, at least that’s what i believe.

    And last but no least, explain me something I didn’t get: if you’re a shadowy government agent who creates unisols, gives them painful memories of their fakes families being murdered and then cuts them loose to do your dirty work, why the hell would you show at a far away location, JUST to explain your nefarious plot to your pissed off killing machine, alone and unprotected? It seems to me like that guy had a death and a clumsy plot exposition wish. So, I guess that’s deep and i didn’t get it. Or bad exposition. And how the hell did they clone him? Can they clone people out of photographs and memories in this universe? Maybe they went to his house and stole his toothbrush? Ok, maybe.

    And am i the only one who has a problem with the way they treat women in this movie?

    Overall, I liked that Hyams was game for being this experimental, this is a very brave and ambitious movie and I respect that. It just wasn’t what I was looking for to be entertained though.

    If it did work out for you, that’s nice, I’m just saying.

  97. Franchise Fred!!!!!!!!

  98. Thanks Mouth! This is the first I saw that. Happy 2013!

  99. Our friend Mike D’Angelo is onboard with the DAY OF RECKONING appreciation, with minor caveats:


    An astonishing cinematic Brundlefly, as if copies of the Universal Soldier franchise had accidentally gotten into the telepod alongside the complete works of Noé, Lynch and the Wachowskis. First two reels are virtually nonstop abstraction, disorienting and ominous; even without having seen any of the previous installments, I could tell that bearings were in deliberately short supply. Then the ass-kicking commences, so singlemindedly ferocious that all you can do is gape. Because the initial raves came from many of the same folks who think Tony Scott was Hollywood’s one true genius, I admit that I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder going in, but Hyams knocked it off almost immediately. He excels—and this is rare—at both kineticism and stillness, orchestrating mayhem with the spatial dexterity of an old pro but also somehow managing to sit two very mediocre actors across a table from each other and derive real tension from their banal conversation, just by lighting the room effectively and punctuating sentences with the suggestion of headlights from traffic just outside. Truly, the only thing holding this sucker back from greatness is the bothersome fact that it’s a Universal Soldier sequel—every so often, Hyams and his co-writers clearly feel obligated to acknowledge expectations, trotting out Van Damme and Lundgren for what amount to weary cameos. It’s never more than lip service, though, and the next self-sufficient, eye-popping setpiece is never more than a few minutes away. Hopefully, the hype will allow Hyams to make something that’ll function like a proper movie next time, rather than “pardon me while I Bogart this series to create one helluva two-hour demo reel.”


    70/100 is a really good score on his scale.

  100. It now appears that it’s ONLY the US that’s getting the edited, R-rated version of this on DVD/BD.

    Very odd.

    Everywhere else it’s the full, NC-17 version.

    I’ll shut the fuck up about this now.

  101. I really appreciate the information, Karlos. Trying to find the best version to order.

  102. Does that include the Canadian blu-ray? Where did you find this info, karlos? I couldn’t find any site listing specifics for these releases.

  103. Vern – In order to get everything then unfortunately it’s a case of double-dipping. The Hyams and Dolph commentary and BTS doc are only on the US DVD/BD, with the uncut version of the film on UK, Oz, Germany and France releases only, it appears.

    Jake – A few people on various film forums (including a buddy of mine) emailed Sony and replies came back yesterday. Think even Hyams himself responded. Interestingly, I don’t think there was any mention of the Canadian release. I’ll keep an eye out and report back when I hear something.

  104. I’m surprised that German Amazon sells the uncut version, considering that it has a Spio/JK rating (comparable to NC-17) and not many shops bother with offering such movies.

  105. It seems like the Canadian Blu-ray is uncut. It has a listed run time of 114 minutes according to this link:


    The US Blu-ray has a run time of 113 minutes according to this link:


    A list of differences is posted here: (NSFW)


    It’s not all cuts. Sometimes alternate footage is used. I can’t look at the link at my job, but from what I remember the new footage seemed to add up to about a minute. (Please feel to double check this though)

    It also seems that only the US Blu will have the Hyams/Dolph commentary and the full length documentary. The international Blus have interviews only. So far no word on what the Canadian Blu will have as far as extra features go… or even if it is the more graphic NC-17 cut of the film (though I really hope it is).

    I love this film. I’ll double dip to get the uncut copy of the film and the sweet US-exclusive extras. (I’ll even combine them in a single dual-disc case). I think I’ll probably take a chance on pre-ordering the Canadian disc in hopes that it truly is the longer cut.

    I love the site, Vern. I hope these links I posted help everyone out a little. Did I do okay for a first post?

  106. Yes, good first post. Keep us updated if you do find out about the extras on the Canadian one. I already pre-ordered the American blu-ray on the strength of the documentary, but have considered the German import for the uncut movie.

  107. Vern/chaps – be careful if ordering the German BD as the cheaper version is apparently cut:


    If you can play region B you’d be better off getting the UK release:


    As we know it’s uncut and it’s cheaper still.

    No Fred T quote on the cover, though.

  108. I went ahead and preordered the Canadian release. Gotta live dangerously sometimes right? I set the shipping to where it should arrive at my homestead on the day of release or the day after. So, I’ll be able to let everyone know what the score is on this release asap.

    Honestly though, this whole home video release situation has me pretty irritated. I mean, Hyams puts together a challenging, thoughtful film and Sony wants nothing to do with a theatrical release. Magnet steps up like a champ and turns the film into a mini sensation simply by getting it in front of people’s eyeballs with limited theater runs and VOD (how I saw it). It gets good buzz. Sony jumps back in to reap the meager benefits with the home video release and what do they do?… put out a censored version in the film’s country of origin. They had access to the NC-17 cut, why not throw it on the Blu? If anything, you’d think having a sticker on the video case that says “UNRATED! TOO GRAPHIC FOR THEATERS!” could potentially sell more units.

    So frustrating and it feels like a giant middle finger to everyone involved with the production.

  109. Since I’m a diagnosed hidefophobe, can anyone point me in the direction of the best DVD to buy?

  110. Majestyk, of this movie or just in general?

  111. This is no time for sarcasm, pegsman. There are crushed skulls at stake.

  112. He says, being sarcastic.

  113. I don’t think any of us will know for sure until this thing is officially released due to the variations in content. I imagine the DVDs will match their Blu counterparts though.

  114. Mr M – If you can play region 2 UK DVDs, I suggest getting that – and here’s the best place to get it from:


  115. Are we 100% sure that’s the uncut version? What I’ll probably end up doing is buying the unrated version and then renting the R-rated one so I can watch the special features. I’ve gotten past the stage in my development where a few extra blood splatters are going to make much of a difference in my enjoyment of a film, but Hyams is a director I respect so I’d like to support his original artistic intent if possible.

    Seriously, though, fuck Sony for making this so complicated. What’s the thinking here? Does Redbox not do unrated or something?

  116. Mr M – The UK DVD has been cited as uncut from a few review sites over here, so hopefully it is.

    Why the US release is cut will forever remain a mystery, but yeah, it’s messed up and, if we want ALL the good stuff, then it’s a double dipping (that BTS doc sounds VERY interesting).

    And whilst you’re on Amazon.co.uk, Mr M, grab JCVD: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. It’s great.

    Surprised Hyams went ahead and did his commentary on the cut version but better than none at all, I guess.

  117. That’s good to know, karlos. I do have a region-free player so that’s probably the version I’ll get. I was hesitant about buying the German DVD because of the language barrier of the site preventing me from being 100% sure about what I was getting. Unless UK Amazon is written entirely in cockney rhyming slang, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

  118. Mr M – No fear, Amazon UK is just like the US one. Only with worse teeth.

  119. Haven’t received my Canadian Blu-ray of this yet (should get it either today or by Friday at the latest). BUT this was posted earlier on forum.blu-ray.com:

    “Bought this in HMV Downtown Toronto and its the NC-17 cut. I can confirm 120%. you’ll know it’s the right one cause on the back there is Red ‘R’ rating and it says ‘interview with director’s and cast’. most likely Canada got the uncensored version on the first run …”

    So for those keeping score at home:
    The Canadian release is the uncut, NC-17 version.
    But it only features interviews with director and cast

    The American release is the censored R-rated version.
    It contains the full lenth documentary and other extras

    Neither version features 3D versions of the film (which is a bummer).

    They are cheaper than importing from other countries though.

    *Mr. Majestyk, all this stuff should apply to the DVD versions as well.

    I’m still getting both as I really want to see the US-exclusive extras.

  120. Ah shit, I was waiting until release day to see if there would be any 3D version blu ray magically appearing in the online buying options.

    Really looking forward to getting my full blown in your face epilepsy on someday with this movie.

  121. I finally got to see this two days ago. Was expecting to like it, but never thought I’d be completely blown away by it.

    If Regeneration was a John Carpenter Universal Soldier movie, then Day of Reckoning must be a Lynch/Jarmusch one. I’m guessing the next will be his Malick one?

    Day of Reckoning completely transcends the genre, and still manages to be a great action movie. Those fights were amazing. Best Baseball Bat Battle Ever. Hyams has just become a big player, in my book. Will have to seek out Dragon Eyes now.

  122. Keep your expectations reasonable for DRAGON EYES, Knox. I found it kind of unfocused and disappointing at first, yet as soon as it was over I found myself wanting to watch it again, which is a rarity for me. On second watch, I really loved it as a sort of dreamy, eerie, opiated distillation of low-budget action cliches. Its plot meanders and is kind of absurd and unbelievable if you think about it, but every scene has a weird energy of its own. Think of it as a decent Tarantino ripoff with great fight scenes and you’re halfway there.

  123. Life imitates art.


    By John Reed

    While the military may seem to be embracing killer robots from the skies and seas, some futurists in the U.S. Army aren’t so sure that there will be platoons of armed robots guarding the perimeters of U.S. combat bases. Instead, enemies of the United States may find themselves squaring off against “superempowered” or “enhanced” troops.

    As the need for soldiers with greater levels of technological sophistication and brainpower increases, the Army may try to recruit troops with the promises of turning them into the “Lance Armstrong, if you will, of a soldier,” said Col. Kevin Felix, chief of the Future Warfare Division at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, during a Dec. 14 interview. Felix was discussing one of the main themes to emerge from the Army’s Strategic Trends Seminar that took place last week in Virginia: super soldiers.

    The Strategic Trends Seminar is conference that brings together everyone from soldiers and spies to academics and even science fiction writers to predict what the Army needs to do to prepare itself to fight in 2030. (Strategic Trends is part of the service’s ongoing larger effort, Unified Quest, aimed at predicting as much as possible about the future. These predictions help guide the Army’s super long range planning.)

    “He’s super empowered, either chemically or through his training. You can create cognitive enhancements for individuals and that may be a way to recruit them because they can come into the military and get that kind of enhancement,” said Felix of the soldier envisioned by conference participants.

    So yeah, the Army is thinking about turning you into Jason Bourne to convince you to enlist — and then to enable you to fight better.

    While the military is famously troubled by the lack of physical fitness among today’s crop of potential recruits, Felix is concerned that tomorrow’s soldiers will need to be both in shape and highly intelligent.

    “We’re going to be looking for people with different skill sets, not only being really intelligent but being able to learn in a very different way,” said Felix, discussing how the increasing use of information-heavy technology on the battlefield means the service may need to recruit “steely-eyed killers” for physical combat who are backed up by more cerebral-troops conducting digital warfare to take out enemy power grids and command-and-control systems.

    One of the big questions raised during last week’s seminar “gets to who do we need in 2030, what type of person,” said Felix. “We need to think as a policy about the diversity” of soldiers needed.

    “There’s a lot of discussion about where you want to put your next investments in terms of biological sciences versus the physics and looking to accelerate the performance of humans both physically and cognitively. I think that’s where our biggest payoff will be in the future,” said Felix.

    While Felix admits that the service is still a long way from having magic pills that can turn troops into Jason Bournes, the Army may be able to increase troops’ mental abilities by analyzing their decision-making processes to help them understand how they think in different situations.

    The service is just “starting to understand the power of what some of our labs are doing in terms of decision-making, understanding emotions and how [they] effect your decisions and being able to baseline soldiers and test them for some of this and provide [feedback] to them after lab tests,” said Felix. “We can produce [feedback] that says ‘you think this way, you feel this way, you decide this way based on these emotions.’ It’s very, very enlightening from a self-awareness perspective. That’s just the first step” in creating these super soldiers, said Felix.
    Eventually, troops may have a digitized copies of their brains scanned onto a computer, allowing the soldier and machine to merge their powers. Or we may see troops who are “physically enhanced” by technology that has evolved from the advanced prosthetics that have emerged over the last decade.

    “One of the unfortunate benefits of 11 years of war has been our advances in” prosthetics, said Felix. “Folks today in a hospital at Walter Reed with a chip in their brain can move a limb that’s still in California — and that’s today. Push that out 20 years and you can imagine that you’ll have some tech enabled humans.”

    Still, don’t expect half-man half-machine Terminators.

    “The general consensus among the science and technology community isn’t that we’ll achieve some kind of a cyborg in 2030. So if you think that you’re going to have a platoon of robots that are guarding the perimeter while you’re out on patrol, we’re not gonna be there,” Felix said.

  124. Can they make soldiers with four arms? Always thought more arms was the key to better soldiering, really.

  125. Excellent analysis Vern, great call on the Lynchian vibe which I never thought of until you wrote it (and I love Lynch).
    I was taken aback that MEMENTO wasn’t mentioned in the review proper, and while I see you touched on that aspect in a comment, I’m going to expound a bit on the huge influence of Nolan’s masterpiece on DAY OF WRECKONING (or WREAKONING, which probably works a bit better). Not in the story structure and plotting, but in the main ideological thrust.

    So the government programs Adkins clone slug with the absolutely brutal memory of having a loving wife and adorable daughter slaughtered in front of him while he’s helpless after being beaten into a bloody pulp by Van Damme’s driver (which I imagine would put clone slug Adkins off golf forever, glad to see him using a baseball bat later in the sporting goods smack down).
    It’s the infusion of that memory that drives Adkins, that makes him resistant to Jean Claude Kurtz’s paychic charms, that drives him to break other programming, that gives him a reason to live, gives him a purpose in life that the other Unisols lacked.
    That, to me, is a total lift of Leonard’s raisin de action. Leonard needed something, anything, to live for, and he chooses to continue to live a lie in a lifequest for revenge, even though in his few moments of lucidity he knows it’s false. Ditto clone slug Adkins. He knows what he is by the end, and like Leonard, he chooses to live the lie, as it’s the only thing that not only tethers him to the only “reality” he knows, but it’s also his sole motivation to live, to have a purpose.

    What I’m especially pleased with is how this film has lingered with me. Initially, I preferred REGENERATION, which I own and is a great fall back film when I’m in the mood for a great actioner, but it hasn’t stuck with me like WREAKONING has. Two days later I’m still reading about it, still obsessing over it the way I would a Cronenberg or Lynch flick. So while I wasn’t sure I’d be buying this one as I wasn’t sure I’d revisit it often, I’m now thinking it’ll be like most of the films I own, something I want to own because once a year or so I’ll want to experience it again.

  126. Okay… I got my Blu-ray in from Amazon.ca and it looks like they sent me the US version even though it shipped from Ontario. I don’t even think I can convince them they gave me the wrong disc as it has the run time listed on the back as 114 minutes. There have been pictures posted of the true Canadian release so it definitely exists. So, it looks like my search for that version continues. Any help would be much appreciated

  127. Ugh. Now that I go back to Amazon.ca. They now clearly have two listings for the blu. One is the American cover and one is bilingual French one. And there system says I ordered the US one even though there were definitely not two listings before.

  128. me 2 months ago on this websight:
    ***[Devereaux] allows John to finish him… Remember how Obi Wan Kenobi dissipates honorably rather than continue to lightsabre-fight? Or Seagal’s death at the end of MACHETE?***

    my close personal friend John Hyams a couple days ago in that Mubi interview:
    ***In essence, [Devereaux/JCVD] losing the fight is almost an offensive move, kind of like the Obi Wan Kenobi move. By Luc relenting and basically sacrificing himself as an offensive move…***


    me 2+ years ago on this websight:
    ***It’d be an interesting exercise if someone with the time, inclination, & video software would cut up a scene from TOP HAT or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS in the Greengrass, post-action style. Cut to Astaire’s smile, close-up of a bending knee, cut to tapping toe, cut to Ginger Rogers doing a 360 twirl, but cut when she’s between 180 & 270 degrees of the twirl and show their arms locking, cut to hands separating, cut to medium shot of shiny shoes kicking air, cut to fancy dress fabric whirling in the air, etc.. How depressing would this be?***

    my close personal friend John a couple days ago on Mubi:
    ***And so I think the idea of fight choreography and action scenes, much like dance, they deal with a lot of precise variables that all have to go right. If you shot Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and shot them with a bunch of close-ups and a bunch of cuts, you would be depriving the audience of what these people can do. So, when you’re doing an action scene with Scott Adkins, the reason why you cast him is because you can do a wide shot that actually plays out for a while without a cut and you can see how talented this guy is.***

  129. Has anyone ever seen Mouth and John Hyams in the same room together?… hmmm

    I have made a second attempt to get the Canadian disc. It apparently also features a DVD digital copy for head smashing fun on the go. I’ll let you know how it goes this time.

    Watched the extras on the US disc last night. If you are a fan of the film or the three leads, it’s worth buying just for the extras. The doc and the commentary really are that good.

  130. I have seen Mouth in person. Unless he gets a stunt double to play him in the behind-the-scenes documentaries of his movies, he is not John Hyams.

    Unless that’s just what he wants us to think…

  131. 3D blu ray coming out in the UK in february!

  132. What the fuck is this shit? I don’t get into “region ACB123 dvd” discussions because that’s strictly nerd shit, but I don’t like how this shows 3D preference for places that aren’t America.
    (United States of, that is, not those other countries & continents that are also technically “America.”)

  133. Sux to be you man, but if you’re lucky the thing will end up being region free

  134. If you ever feel like losing the last vestige of your faith in humanity, do yourself a favor and read the member reviews on Netflix.

    Example: “What we’re they thinking making this movie wow it’s was the WORST movie I’ve ever ever seen, there are no words to explain but don’t watch this movie you will want hurt yourself after watching this movie I have to Boycott this movie who’s with me!!!!.”

    I don’t see why I should be forced to share the planet with people like this.

  135. I gave up on reading user reviews on films a while back. You just gotta think about what kind of folks take time to write that nonsense and how much said folks actually know about film criticism.

    I have a standing rule that has served me really well as a geek of all sorts through my 30+ years of life. If you can not articulate why you dislike something, then I automatically discount or outright disregard your opinion on that topic. It doesn’t even have to be articulated well just an honest attempt be made to do so.

    I mean that review that Mr. Majestyk quoted can basically be boiled down to “IT SUCKS AND I HATE IT!”. Zero insight… and all the depth of a 5 year old declaring there hatred for broccoli.

    I like to think that most people who bother to read user reviews would peg that right away as a review not be given any real weight. Same things goes for if it was a simplistic rave review like: “BEST MOVIE EVAR!!!11 ADKINS OWNS!”

  136. Yes, I finally saw it and totally fell in love with it. I had my doubts, because I didn’t like part 3 nearly as much as most of you, but this one is all kinds of great an in my opinion on par with other arthouse action movies, like DRIVE or HAYWIRE.

  137. If it helps anyone’s purchasing decisions, the UK blue-ray clocks in at 114 minutes and appears to be the uncut version (it included SPOILER the lad getting the top of his head batted off, for instance).

    Just watched it (didn’t read the review first) and was blown away by the wierdness of it – probably the oddest ‘action movie’ I’ve seen for a long time.

  138. Ok,great fucking movie. But am I the only one who has a problem with the fucking lightstrobing effects?
    I don´t expect Hyams to be a Ph.D in every medical condition known to man ,but epilepsy is a pretty well known condition and i find the mindcontrol sequences very uncomfortable. In my opinion that was just a retarded creative choice .But anything else about the movie was FUCKING great!

    What a wonderfully subversive actionmovie! Not restrained by the standards it was supposed to meet, we got handed one helluva movie that was unexpected,memorable, and with kickass performances of everyone. I can really see Adkins performing the more down-to-earth,likeable, everyday kind of guy because he has that kind of charisma.

    This post might come of as slightly bi-polar.

  139. Dikembe Mutombo

    May 11th, 2013 at 2:15 am

    Yeah, I saw it in the theater and I had to physically look away from the screen during the strobing parts. It was borderline painful. Cool movie though. What struck me about it is how it seems to be a pastiche of a bunch of different things, but still has its own sensibility and still feels really original and unique. Hyams has a distinct voice and style for sure. I’d love it Statham got him to do one of his mid-budget action pictures.

  140. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Oh dear God, the new Adkins/Lundgren DTV flick looks absolutely horrible…. Come on, Scott! You’re better than this!


  141. Yeah, it looks like a SyFy Original Movie with a slightly bigger budget, but I have to say that I’m intrigued by the idea of having these two action stars appear in a creature feature.

  142. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    The idea is fun, but not like this… Not like THIS…

  143. I know. I’m just trying to say positive.

  144. I am actually intrigued. I refuse being let down by a trailer. I will pass judgment upon eyeball connection to my TV.

  145. I would totally Redbox that movie. (Btw, I’m curious as to if it’s playing in 3D in America or if that’s just for international markets) And yeah, CJ, I’m intrigued too about having these two stars in a monster movie that apparently doesn’t feature any martial arts. I’ve always felt Adkins was slightly underrated as an actor, it’ll be nice to see what he can do just acting.

  146. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I love the guy, but if I’m completely honest I don’t think Adkins is underrated as an actor… He’s a sensational martial artist and he does well with an angry Russian accent, but he’s not much of an actor. Much rather see him kick someone’s face in than watch him fake-react to bad CGI monsters…

  147. That’s what people said about van Damme before he did JCVD. Give an action star the right script and/or motivation and he might surprise you.

  148. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    He’s not like Schwarzenegger who is carried by his accent and extreme personality or Sly who is an actually great actor. I think Adkins even admitted in several interviews that he needs to play guys that have an edge to them, because he can’t do typical squeaky clean heroes. For example he really wasn’t happy with the Casey character in the first Ninja and he was the one who decided to give Hector the Russian Boyka accent in Ex2.

  149. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 31st, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    CJ, I do believe that with a great script he could go a long way like Van Damme. But that would require something that is completely suited to his strengths and not this CGI bullshit. He should’ve said no to this… then again, I heard he had an injury that he needed to get back from. Maybe he was looking for a non-fighting role and this was the only thing that came up.

  150. Adkins is a better actor than Arnie because he has a down to earth kind of sincerity about him. Sly has never been a good actor, but his sincerity as Rocky shine through in that performance and I think Scott can do that as well. DAY OF RECKONING proved he had that ability.

  151. Yeah, it’s true, I doubt that this movie will be Adkins’s big acting showcase.

  152. This movie should be a showcase. I think Adkins works extremely well in this movie since he is supposed to be some kind of unpersonal puppet controlled by the government. Throughout the movie his progression is fucking substantial because he is supposed to be a goddamn puppet.

  153. I agree with you in terms of UniSol, but I doubt that there will be much memorable acting going on in that monster movie we were talking about.

  154. We will see,CJ. I am as hesitant as you. But you can´t argue the fascination of it. But we will see.

  155. Definitely. Also I think Dolph as tough guy hunter has the potential to become the scene stealer in this movie.

    Y’know, I would really love to see Adkins getting a starring role on THE WALKING DEAD. He doesn’t even have to kick a zombie in the head, but for any reason I think he would fit well into the cast.

  156. The Original... Paul

    July 16th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Ah, crap, I’m gonna be the downer guy again. So I’ll go ahead and say straight away that I enjoyed parts of this, that the scoring is phenomenally good, and that some of the directorial choices fully support Vern’s nomination of Hyams as “Best director” of 2012. But as a whole movie, it didn’t work for me, and I’m going to go into some detail as to why that is. This will be spoiler-heavy, so be warned.

    But let me go into what I’m watching first, since there seems to be some confusion over the different “versions” of the film. The DVD I have in front of me is rated 18 and is 109 minutes long. It has “special features” of interviews with Hyams, Van Damme, Adkins, and Lundgren. Whether it’s the full uncut version of the film, I don’t know. It has some pretty sickening stuff on it including hands and arms getting graphically sliced by machetes, close-range headshots, etc.

    From a technical standpoint this is a fantastic movie. I love the contrasting visual styles of the different scenes; for example, Adkins travels from the clean sterility of the hospital to the grimy operating room in the Unisols’ bunker. It struck me after watching this movie that almost every scene has what you might call an “ironic double”, just as Adkins himself has; even his “false home” has a double, in his clone’s serial-killer-lair-esque shack. Every visual choice in this movie is made with a definite point in mind, and I really admire that aspect of it.

    I love the opening scene with Adkins’ family, done from Adkin’ point of view. I love the scene in the sporting goods store – Vern wasn’t the only one who spotted the girl’s reaction – and the action scenes are damn near perfect.

    So there are little touches all over the film that I kinda love, but unfortunately there’s also a helluva lot more of the other kind. There are some really, really weird decisions made in terms of the use of “avid farts” (I’m thinking particularly of the strobe lighting effect that occurs when a Unisol gets “freed”) and also some of the use of flashbacks.

    And this is where my opinion starts to diverge with the more positive ones. See, I understand why they did the first scene from Adkins’ perspective – it only exists in his memories, after all – but after that they half-ass it. And it hurts the film, a lot. When he goes back to the faked house that he was supposed to have lived in, we’re no longer looking at the scene from his perspective. The problem is that when he reaches the teddy bear, the scene jumps to – a flashback. Another faked memory (and by that point I’d already worked out that the memories probably were faked – heck, the FBI agent practically gives it away at the hospital, and Luc Devereaux has always been ultra-protective of innocents in the previous films, so his actions in the false memory are suspicious enough on their own).

    The problem with this is: we don’t get to see Adkins’ reaction. We don’t see his anguish, we don’t see his suffering. We don’t see him mourn. For a film that has no problems whatsoever displaying physical torment, it drops the ball on the emotional side. But that’s what you sympathise or empathise with! How did Adkins really react to his family’s death? I have no idea. I get why he’s not shown reacting much in the hospital – they give away that he’s a unisol with the clumsy reference to babyfood, plus the equally clumsy double-reference to “nine months” (the FBI agent mentions he’s been in hospital that long, then ten minutes later in the film Issac mentions a “gestation period” of nine months for the unisols). But even that seems a little inconsistent. I don’t remember JCVD or Lundgren having any problems expressing their emotions in the previous films.

    I think that not showing a supposedly human Adkins’ reaction to the death of his family AFTER the opening scene was a huge, huge misstep. All we really see is his reaction during the opening scene, which (if you’ve watched a previous Unisol film, you’ll probably work out very early on indeed) is completely bogus. It robs his character arc of any real “weight”. Whether or not WE believe in his family or not, we need to believe that ADKINS does. I didn’t get that from this film.

    Here’s the big structural problem I have with this film. People who are watching it as first-timers to the franchise would be absoutely confused as to what’s going on. Who are the Unisols, what’s been done to them, why don’t they feel pain, why do they regenerate limbs? None of this stuff is really explained. I don’t think the film needed an exposition dump, but the rules of the universe needed to be set. And the rules of this universe seem to be inconsistent with both the previous Unisol movies that I’ve seen, as well as within the universe itself. I can, for example, understand the “plumber” being so much stronger than the other unisols – after all, look at who plays him – but his history is never mentioned. I didn’t even recognise him as the antagonist of “Regeneration” initially because of the beard. It does seem, though, that the other unisols are far, far weaker than they used to be. Anybody else remember when a single Unisol could walk into the middle of a firefight and kill twenty men? And now they’re being taken out by a single pistol shot?

    So this movie is definitely not for people who are new to the franchise. And honestly I don’t think it’s for people who have watched any of the previous movies either. And this is the structural problem I have with the movie. From the moment Adkins wakes up, is fed baby oil, and is mentioned to have been in a coma for nine months, pretty much everybody’s gonna twig that he’s a Unisol. The only question in my mind was whether he’d had a life before the coma where he was also a unisol (Van Damme inflicts a huge amount of damage on him in that opening scene, giving some weight to that theory if you “buy” that Devereaux would kill a child in cold blood for no reason – at least it’s some kind of red herring), whether he was human with a real family but changed into a unisol afterwards, or whether the entire memory of his is false and he’s just been “created”. It’s not too difficult to come to the conclusion that the whole memory – all seen from Adkins’ point of view – is bogus, which leads on to the equally inevitable conclusion that the FBI man who shows such little regard for Adkins’ family at the start knows full well that they don’t exist, and that the whole thing is a plot against Devereaux.

    So the first hour or so of the movie, for me, was watching Adkins painstakingly go through the motions of finding out something that I’d pretty much already worked out in the first ten minutes. And the trouble with this is that there’s no equivalent scene to the great one in the bar in “Regeneration” where JCVD attacks an innocent bar patron. Yes, it showed the stakes (the kidnapping of the two children in the opening car chase) but it also showed us exactly who JCVD is and what he was struggling with internally. There’s no equivalent scene in “Day of Reckoning”.

    I was astonished at how much a movie with as little dialogue as “Day of Reckoning” broke the “Show, don’t tell” rule. Adkins’ character goes through a tremendous amount of change and conflict in this movie, but none of it means anything because 1) the stakes aren’t properly established, and 2) anybody who knows the general mythos of the series is going to be way ahead of Adkins for most of the movie (the first bit that really surprised me was when he met his clone. Didn’t see that one coming. That’s really the point at which the movie first “grabbed” me. And even then, the confrontation between the two didn’t really “pay off”. See I would’ve accepted JCVD from “Regeneration” attempting to kill his ex-sweetheart in a heartbeat. But not CloneKins. The movie didn’t “earn” that for me.)

    And while the movie certainly gets going with the discovery of the clone, it also destroys the stakes some more. At the end, JCVD accepts death readily, and why shouldn’t he? He’s a sacrifice, no more. They’ll make another Devereaux in nine months’ time and the cycle will begin all over again. By the same token, Adkins’ shooting the FBI agent at the end means nothing – he’s a clone too, a sacrificial lamb. At the end of this film it’s pretty clear that the real FBI agent will meet his own clone – the one created by the Unisols. Which is an interesting idea, to put it mildly. I’d have liked to have seen how that story would’ve played out.

    All along I felt that there was a more interesting story being told behind the scenes than the one I was actually watching. Seeing Adkins fumble his way to discovering the truth about himself (the truth that I’d already worked out an hour earlier in the movie) isn’t exactly gripping stuff. The fight with Pitbull in the sporting goods store is freaking awesome, especially when you consider that actually Pitbull’s intention isn’t to kill Adkins but to “free” him. But look at Dolph! He’s now part revolutionary leader, part pimp (hey, gotta keep the troops happy, right?) and gets a “rousing rabble” speech that for me was probably the weakest part of the movie. The impression I got was that the writers didn’t know what to do with him. He doesn’t have a character arc at all. If anything I’d have liked to have seen how Sgt. Scott found himself not only an ally of Devereaux’s, but also leading the unisols. I don’t think we’re ever shown this, and neither are we told it (although that’s probably a good thing).

    If it had been Devereaux’s story, or Scott’s… about how they were trying to lead a revolution using the Unisols… then the futility of everything that happens in the movie would’ve been a fitting epitaph to it, a satisfying conclusion. But not to Adkins’ story. He’s a cypher, a mind-controlled clone. What does it all mean to him? I don’t know that it means anything to him. We get TOLD a lot about the changes that he goes through, but nonetheless, as far as what’s shown on screen, he remains a cypher. And it’s not enough.

    If they were going with this story, I wish they’d given the viewers full disclosure in the beginning, and made it about the emotional struggle of a broken man who slowly discovers how much of a lie his life really is. Instead they took the emotion of it out of the equasion and made it a mystery. They wanted the viewers to come to the same conclusions as Adkins, but they forgot to include the emotional aspect of it.


    There’s a lot that’s great about individual parts of this movie, although there are definitely some missteps too. The action is great, the scoring is fantastic, and the “doubling” of the visuals for thematic purpose is something that I’ve rarely seen as well-implemented as it’s done here. All that said… the movie doesn’t work for me as a whole. The story that’s told is fundamentally unsuited to a “mystery” structure. If they’d have given the viewers notice of what was really going on, and made the movie about Adkins’ emotional journey of discovery, instead of asking us to “figure it out” (when most people probably did in the first twenty minutes anyway), this would’ve worked brilliantly, I think. As it is, it’s a very well-made movie, a technical accomplishment, but a failure of storytelling.

  157. Watched this today in Theatres here in Singapore. The audience seemed genuinely puzzled by what they saw at the end.

  158. Finally saw the uncut unrated version. No change in its beauty & awesomeness, but there is indeed a 22% increase in brutality & memorability for that brutality, which is immediately offset by a 23% increase in humor & over-the-top enjoyability, assuming you’re the kind of sick fuck who laughs at brain splatter & shattered skulls. The unrated stuff is more or less consistent with the tone set by the ridiculous Dolph deaths in John Hyams’s UNISOLs so far, so there’s precedent for uncomfortable giggling at the gore.

    I also finally got to see THE STAR CHAMBER (1983), directed by the elder of my close personal friends in the Hyams clan, and it’s pretty fantastic. I recommend not knowing anything about it going in
    (I didn’t even realize that was Michael Douglas until, like, his 3rd scene b/c of the way his face is lit),
    because there are some 2nd & 3rd act double-triple-quadruple-quintuple-crosses and surprise cops-n-criminals match-ups and chases and set-ups and informants’ tips and etc. that double back on each other & backfire and it’s all really fun and yet taken totally seriously by the filmatists & performers at the same, just the way we like it.

    The overt didacticism of the script & the newscaster talking heads is a clever screen for the entertaining heart of the narrative and the pervasive “What would you do?” element of the experience. So much fun, so much suspense.

    If you liked BUSTING and CAPRICORN ONE and OUTLAND (and of course you did), you’ll dig THE STAR CHAMBER.

  159. I watched UNISOL:DOR again recently (third time) and liked it even more. Having a solid grasp of the plot meant I could just soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the awesome action sequences. The homages (ripoffs) of other filmmakers seemed way more deliberate than I first remembered. The whole experience was like a half-remembered dream that mooshes together reality and pop-culture. Can’t wait for the next one.

  160. The whole movie felt like a really intense, violent fever dream. It’s rare that any movie can keep the same tone throughout as well as DOR has. Especially an ‘action’ film. Mulholland Drive had a similar feel to it. The bewildered state of the protagonist, the hypnotic score, lurid, dream-like visuals, and not knowing what’s around the corner. On my first viewing of DOR I found the story unpredictable and really intriguing.

    It says a lot about the action genre being elevated to an ART level when I find myself comparing DOR to a Lynch film, but that’s my impression.

  161. I just watched this back-to-back with THE MACHINE and both films were a totally amazing in execution, both in terms of visuals and storytelling. The indie action and sci-fi scene just keeps getting better and better.

    Vern, you should watch THE MACHINE if you get a chance. It’s quality across the board. I think you’d like it.

  162. The Undefeated Gaul

    July 22nd, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Interesting article on Day Of Reckoning. I need to watch this again now, hadn’t picked up on many things mentioned in this and actually felt a lot of it didn’t make sense.


  163. I like it. Good job, Wil Jones. I’m glad the word continues to spread. Interesting point about parallels between Van Damme in his career and how he’s portrayed in some of the movies.

  164. Thanks Vern. Spreading the Gospel of the last 2 films as far as possible.

  165. I love this movie more than Homer Simpson loves a cold beer on a hot Christmas morning. More than cameras love Kim Kardashian. More than Joel McHale loves snark. More than Patrick Bateman’s night club buddies love cocaine. More than baby birds love pre-chewed worms. More than g-spots love touch. I love UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING more than Barry Obama loves golf.

  166. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 15th, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Sometimes I think I don’t quite get you guys.

    There are definitely things about this movie that I loved. I particularly loved the “mirroring” of locations, which I thought was genuinely clever and off-putting – Adkins’ suburban house with Clonekins’ serial-killer-esque lair, the cold sterility of the hospital at the beginning to the butcher’s shop of horrors at the end, etc. I loved the sporting-goods-store fight.

    But man, Scott Adkins did nothing for me, not that he’s really given a chance to. I never believed in his “family” anyway, and nor was I ever convinced that HE believed in them. And not showing us his reaction to when he went back to what he thought was his house just rammed that point home for me. I just couldn’t get invested in the main character of the movie. That’s a huge, huge problem.

    Sorry Mouth, but I’m totally with FCH on this one: http://badassdigest.com/2012/10/03/fantastic-fest-group-review-universal-soldier-day-of-reckoning-3d/ . Except for the point at the end he makes about Adkins defending what he knows are false memories (this is actually explained, and the explanation makes sense to me.) But other than that… I love a lot of the images of the film, I love a lot of what they’ve done with the locations, I love the idea of the girlfriend character although even she’s not given enough characterisation for me to empathise with her; I just didn’t think the storytelling worked.

    I’m sorry to keep making this comparison but I suspect THE RAID 2 will remain as my go-to example for storytelling in action movies for a long long time to come. So compare Adkins’ story to Rama’s or Uco’s in THE RAID 2. Rama starts out as a guy in a bad situation trying to do the right thing, and ends up as the Grim Fucking Reaper; Uco goes from being an arrogant but intelligent braggart to an almost-mute paranoid husk. Seeing those guys go through their respective transformations is spellbinding (I’ve now watched THE RAID 2 three times, and loved it more every single damn time). We never get anything like that with Adkins’ character. And the movie needed it.

  167. Adkins posted a photo of probably the most iconic part of the movie, and it gave me what I think is a million pound idea(pounds are worth more than dollars):

  168. Uco, the Indonesian Brandon Lee.

  169. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 16th, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Oh, and you know what really hurts the movie? The concept of clones. I don’t think we’ve had that before in the franchise. Basically it means that anybody who dies can be replicated. There’s no life-and-death stakes any more. Scott has presumably been replicated, Adkins is a straight copy of another guy, Deveraux and the FBI-guy probably WILL be replicated. I could even see them making another copy of the plumber (is he supposed to be a clone of the guy from Unisol: Regeneration?)

    In the film’s predecessor, there were not only innocent people to care about (including Deveraux and the other Unisols to some extent), there was also a sense of danger. If you get killed, you’re either dead or you get turned into a Unisol (which is pretty much being damned, vampire-style – you’re basically becoming a monster, an instrument of chaos and violence). That’s not the case with “Day of Reckoning”.

    Again, I’m sorry to be the voice of negativity here. I do like a lot of the movie’s scenes on their own merit – I just don’t think they stand up as a coherent whole, and I think there’s a more interesting story to be told than the one we actually see.

  170. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 16th, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Shoot – I freaking love that character.

    One thing I didn’t notice until my third(!) viewing – do you realise he’s almost completely mute after he kills his father? He has one line of dialogue, and that’s with a completely inconsequential character (a bathroom attendant actually – but it’s a great line that really nails how much of a bastard he is). He doesn’t speak to any of the other main characters after that point. Again, it’s not subtle (heck, this is a character whose internal torment is represented by the bruises on his face from when his father beat him) but it really nails just how bestial he’s become. He’s gone from being an articulate, intelligent, ambitious young man, to a cornered animal who strikes out at anybody close to him through sheer instinct.

  171. It matches his physically transformed body. He looks more like a corpse now. It´s funny really. At first viewing you think it´s gonna be that dorky pimp from MERENTAU who becomes Ramas biggest adversary, but that is not where the story goes and I like that. It´s about both Rama and Ucu. Rama getting revenge for his brother is lost somewhere along the way, which is really interesting and unusual.

  172. Re-watched THE RAID 2 for the fifth time last night. That.Kitchen.Scene. This has now become my new favourite fight scene. It´s probably the only true one-on-one fight scene that Gareth Evans shot. And it´s mesmerizing. It´s a spectacle with all the kicks. I like legs, especially when they hit someone. Hard. There is so little of high and roundhouse kicks in these films that I´ma glad Evans actually shot a scene just for me. But the momentum is also great. I hate fight sequences that are one-sided. Like when the villain completely owns the first part of the fight, then the hero makes a miraculous return and takes over (UNDISPUTED 3, ROCKY 4). Too much John Cena bullshit for me. The going back and forth, switching momentum gives the fight a more fluid exciting rhythm which makes the kitchen scene sp great.

    For the record, I have never seen the entire UNDISPUTED 3, only the end fight on Youtube, so there might be a backstory built in there I am aware of. But I did not care for that fight the way it was.

  173. Paul- I think the clones part are the best. I look at it as an existential motif that started with REGENERATION, I believe. Dolph keeps coming back as a clone. His existential crisis in REGENERATION was really great, and the realization that their existence has no end, it´s just an endless loop, kind of reminds me of Waiting for Godot, at least in my simpleminded analysis of the play.

    The main characters of that play is also in an endless loop unless they find themselves a purpose of their own. I don´t remember how the play ends, but for the most part they are just sitting around waiting for someone to give them purpose. The only way to break the cycle of existential crisis is to find your own way. Adkins chooses to believe that he had a family, which actually gives him purpose in life.

  174. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 17th, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Shoot – see, I agree with you on the effect, but disagree on the cause. The whole idea of Unisols is that you can die, time and time again, and keep getting reborn – but not as yourself, as some kind of a monster. I think the concept of Unisols works to add to this effect. But the idea of clones takes away from it. The whole point of Clone-Adkins and Clone-Dolph is that they’re not based on anybody at all, they’re carefully-manufactured personas. Dolph in “Day of Reckoning” had nothing whatsoever to do with Dolph in “Regeneration”, or the original “Universal Soldier” come to that. He’s a completely different character. Not that I object to an actor playing a different character in related movies, but it completely destroys the point of a Unisol being a tragic machine of war that’s somehow grasping for his lost humanity. There ISN’T any lost humanity in Clone-Dolph’s case, he’s just a construct.

    And I agree on Adkins. That’s why I disagreed with that one point FCH made regarding Adkins choosing his false memories over the reality in front of him. I mean, this goes back to the location thing. We’ve seen both the false and real in Adkins’ life made manifest, and the differences between them are pretty stark. Why WOULD you choose the grimy reality over the perfect facade? It’s a choice between believing in a pleasant illusion or coming to terms with the fact that your entire identity is based on a lie. (Ask any ex-cult member which of those two alternatives can be more appealing.)

    “I hate fight sequences that are one-sided. Like when the villain completely owns the first part of the fight, then the hero makes a miraculous return and takes over (UNDISPUTED 3, ROCKY 4).”

    Or, indeed, just about every JCVD final fight ever shot (ok that’s an exaggeration but it sure as heck is a lot of ’em), with the exception of Unisol: Regeneration. Yeah, I don’t like this trope either.

  175. “Dolph in “Day of Reckoning” had nothing whatsoever to do with Dolph in “Regeneration”, or the original “Universal Soldier” come to that. He’s a completely different character. Not that I object to an actor playing a different character in related movies, but it completely destroys the point of a Unisol being a tragic machine of war that’s somehow grasping for his lost humanity. There ISN’T any lost humanity in Clone-Dolph’s case, he’s just a construct.”

    I think the reason he is so different is because Devearux, not the government, brainwashed Dolph. They become different constructs based on who is using him/her for their own purposes. Even in REGENERATION he is an entire different being. He has more of an existential crisis because he doesn´t understand the purpose of him being there. At least it´s how I interpret it. Dolph does have a slight reminiscent memory of his Nam days prior to the fight with JCVD. “We´ve been over this before”, which means the good doctor didn´t do a very good job of programming him.

    That is what´s creepy. Anyone can be shaped. The physical resemblance doesn´t replicate what they have been before. (Does that makes sense?)

  176. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 18th, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    It does. Yeah, I think we’re in agreement there.

  177. Yeah, this is a dirty, dark, bastard of a film. I wish there were more like it.

  178. Long time reader, first time poster. Wanted to point out that the other thing that’s crazy about this movie is that it actually made waves outside of the series fan base or the usual DTV viewers. Lots of high brow critics praised this movie, especially this great article in The Paris Review if you can believe it! http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/12/24/masterpiece-theatre-universal-soldier-day-of-reckoning/

  179. Picked up Z NATION season 1 on bluray on a blind buy, and it’s a darn good zombie apocalypse series so far, though I’m only on episode 3. Was pleasantly surprised to see John Hyams as a producer, and I got a zoner (zombie for boner), when the first two episodes said ‘directed by’ him also. I kinda lost interest in The Walking Dead midway through season 2, cause I was all zombied out at the time, and it didn’t hook me, but I gotta say this one’s pretty energetic in the action and gore arena, even with its meagre-seeming budget (it’s from SyFy and Asylum).

    Character highlight so far is a guy who calls himself Ten Thousand, cause to date he’s snipered and slingshotted about a thousand Z’s (as they refer to the undeadites), and when asked what he’ll do when he gets to ten thousand kills? “Change my name.”

  180. So Z NATION is rolling along just fine, I’ve almost finished season 1. A good sign for me with a series is if I watch it over a couple of nights without diversion. The horror and action hasn’t let me down, and the gore is the real deal stuff when it comes to exploding heads and hacked off limbs. I’d expect a lot of cheap looking cgi from Asylum, but it’s been reserved here for the more sensational set-pieces, like when the Liberty Bell from Philly comes off the back of a truck, ploughs down a main road and takes out a few dozen zombies. Or when the survivors are holed up in Kansas as a tornado hits, just at the same time a large herd of zombies are staggering across an open field, resulting in – that’s right, a fucking Zombinado! At which point a survivor dryly remarks – “At least it wasn’t sharks.”

    It’s not as cheesy as I’m making out. There are some good character arcs, entire episodes devoted to a few main characters. There’s encounters with a post-apocalypse cannibal cult, a weirdo religious cult, green irradiated zombies at an unstable nuclear power station, a crazy Patton like Army-General played by Bill Moseley, and the usual rednecks along the way. Ride Of The Valkryies gets played over a pickup truck’s loud speaker during an assault by the survivors. Enough familiar tropes I guess for anyone who’s seen more recent stuff like STAKELAND, but with some nice flourishes.

    So far Hyam’s has directed four out of the nine episodes I’ve seen.

  181. The AV Club has a great article on the Universal Soldier series.

    Universal Soldier may be the only series whose DTV sequels are its best work

    With Run The Series, The A.V. Club examines film franchises, studying how they change and evolve with each new installment.The Universal Soldier films have come to occupy a strange place in the landscape of sci-fi action franchises. It’s not simply that the series managed to survive the bankruptcy o

  182. Just re-watched the last 25 minutes. Great movie overall, but man, once he gets into the UniSol compound, it is just bananas. Dolph and JCVD each go out in such bawse fashion. It’s a thing of beauty.

  183. Van Damme and Dolph are apparently playing the co leads in BLACK WATER. Also on the same side. Could this be their ESCAPE PLAN?

  184. Man. This was a great review and comment section. I think this might be the peak of this comment section’s media influence.

    Wish they had made a part 5… other than the previous – excellent- part 5.

  185. And….holy crap, John Hyams is next on the Art of Action!

    I am simultaneously exhilarated and worried that I’m currently looking forward to the latest Scott Adkins podcast more than I’m looking forward to the latest Scott Adkins movie!

    And can you blame me?

    Adkins Films over the last 6 months: SEIZED, LEGACY OF LIES, DEAD RECKONING, MAX CLOUD

    Adkins podcast over the last 6 months: Gary Daniels, Steven Seagal, Jeff Speakman, Alain Moussi, Sam Hargrave, Joey Ansah, Kurt McKinney, Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais!

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