|Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Hyams|
|Box office||$1.4 million|
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is a 2012 American science fiction-horror action film co-written, co-edited and directed by John Hyams. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, who both reprise their roles from the first film, with Scott Adkins and Andrei Arlovski also star. It is the fourth and final theatrical installment in the Universal Soldier series.
The film acts as a semi-sequel to its 2009 predecessor, Universal Soldier: Regeneration and likewise, is unrelated to the two television sequels and ignores the events of the 1999 theatrical sequel Universal Soldier: The Return. In the film, a young former military man named John awakens from a coma and finds out that his wife and daughter have been murdered in a home invasion. John goes on a personal vendetta against the man behind the incident who is revealed to be Luc Deveraux, the eponymous Universal Soldier from the first two films who has now become a powerful terrorist military leader.
Though Day of Reckoning received generally mixed reviews, with criticisms toward its "brutal" violence, the film received praise for its direction, action, and "haunting" atmosphere; comparisons were made with the works of Michael Haneke and David Lynch. Day of Reckoning was first released on VOD in the United States before receiving a theatrical release on November 30, 2012. The film grossed $1.4 million against a production budget of $8 million.
John awakens from a coma to find that his wife and daughter were brutally murdered in a home invasion. With the help of FBI Agent Gorman, the still amnesiac John identifies the perpetrator as former Universal Soldier (UniSol) Luc Deveraux, now a wanted man. Gorman activates sleeper agent Magnus, one of the cloned Next Generation UniSols from Regeneration. Magnus reaches a brothel and kills all the women working there and most of the patrons, all men with exceptional physical resistance. His last adversary, a clone of UniSol Andrew Scott and Deveraux's former nemesis, incapacitates Magnus and injects him with a serum that frees him from government control. Magnus is introduced to a separatist group led by Deveraux and Scott, who are taking in wayward UniSols to turn them against the U.S. government, thus establishing a new order ruled by UniSols.
Determined to find Deveraux, John receives a call from someone claiming to be his friend Isaac, urging the two to meet. At his house, he finds Isaac long dead and evidence of Isaac's involvement with the UniSol government program. A matchbox found on the scene leads John to a strip club, where he is recognized by a stripper named Sarah, whom he cannot remember. Magnus injects John with Scott's serum, whereupon John hallucinates about Deveraux but retains his will. John follows Sarah to her apartment, where they are attacked by Magnus again. Though in the confrontation John loses some phalanges, they escape. Sarah tells John she remembers him working as a truck driver, living in a riverside cabin, and that the two were romantically involved.
Calling his own memories into question, John requests a meeting with Agent Gorman. He learns Deveraux was often seen at the docks from where John used to take shipments. John goes to the docks, inspects the last unshipped cargo and meets with local manager Ron Castellano, who plays hidden camera footage that shows John brutally murder Isaac.
As John and Sarah drive towards the cabin, they are once more intercepted by Magnus. Upon finally eliminating Magnus, John realizes he possesses superior strength, resistance and fighting abilities; his severed fingers have regrown in the meantime. John and Sarah reach the cabin to find it inhabited by an exact duplicate of John, who reveals himself as the original who had killed Isaac and been in contact with Sarah and Castellano in the past. The original John had been mind-controlled into hunting down Deveraux, but was turned by him and hired as a transporter and assassin for his organization, until he met Sarah and deserted Deveraux. He tries to kill Sarah but is shot dead by the other John, now suspecting himself to be a UniSol sleeper agent.
By the river, a rogue UniSol takes John to the separatists' underground headquarters. There, he is greeted by Dr. Su, a former scientist of the UniSol program, who reveals John had been synthetically created a few weeks earlier, therefore his family never existed. Dr. Su also says the missing shipment contains the hardware that will allow Deveraux to create clones. John accepts Su's offer to surgically sever his emotional bond with the fake memories of his family, but the pain and attachment to those memories drive John insane. He kills every UniSol in his path, culminating with Andrew Scott in a one-on-one confrontation. John then reaches Deveraux himself; in the ensuing fight, Deveraux eventually gains the upper hand. Realizing the cycle of sending clones of John against him is destined to repeat, and seeing John as a worthy successor, Deveraux allows John to kill him.
Later, John meets with Agent Gorman again. Gorman admits to his involvement with the UniSol program and that he had purposefully put an unaware John on Deveraux's trail. Gorman ascribes John's success to his familial attachment, as opposed to the patriotism implanted in his predecessors. John kills Gorman, then a clone of Gorman and three UniSols emerge from John's van. The clone leaves in Gorman's car, hinting that John has acquired the cloning equipment and taken over the separatist group, now determined to infiltrate the government which he holds responsible for his pain.
In May 2010, it was announced that Van Damme and Lundgren would return for a fourth official installment. Universal Soldier: A New Dimension was to be the first in the series filmed in 3-D. John Hyams also returned as director. Hyams has cited films like Apocalypse Now, The Manchurian Candidate, Chinatown, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers among others, as inspirations for the film.
In April 2012, it was announced that the film's subtitle was to be re-titled from A New Dimension to Day of Reckoning. When first submitted to the MPAA, the film received an NC-17 rating due to its violence. An edited R-rated version was released in theaters. The NC-17 director's cut has been released overseas.
The film was released in Russia and Malaysia on October 4 and grossed $624,724. The film opened a week later in Ukraine and ended up grossing $31,349. It was released on November 30, 2012 in the United States in three screens, grossing $3,181 in its opening weekend, and as of the December 6, the film has grossed $4,928. It also opened on the same day in Turkey, finishing 8th with $75,919 for the weekend, as of the December 9, the film has grossed $138,232 in Turkey. The film was also released in the United Arab Emirates and as of the December 9 it has grossed $193,274. The worldwide total as of the December 12 is $992,507.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 56% approval rating for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning based on 50 reviews; the weighted average is 5.05/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The mooted final installment in the long-running series is a hyper-violent, often grim throwback to action movies of yore - which will appeal to some audiences just as emphatically as it deters others".
The film's violence was deemed excessive among negative reviews for Day of Reckoning. Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly stated that the film "is so gruelingly violent you half wonder if director John Hyams' goal is to make the audience get up and leave the theater rather than be party to the brutality." Scott Bowles of USA Today also criticized the film for being "so mean-spirited and joyfully violent" that it leans toward the torture porn genre. Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News wrote that unprepared viewers are "bound to leave shellshocked. Not just because of the movie's brutal violence, but from the stunning realization that this grim franchise will never stop regenerating itself."
Among positive reviews, Nick Antosca of The Paris Review wrote that Day of Reckoning is "less an action film than a horror film", likening it to films made by David Lynch and early David Cronenberg and describing it as "strange, haunting, sometimes even beautiful odyssey that lingered with me more than any American movie in recent memory." He concluded that it is his "favorite movie of last year-the best movie of last year , I would argue." Eric Kohn of IndieWire also shared the same sentiment, declaring it as one of 2012's best action films and writing that "Hyams delivers a remarkably satisfying action-thriller hybrid that constantly pushes ahead." Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz praised the film for its "elegant, committed action direction" and stated that "it just radiates menace." He also went on to say that the Universal Soldier film series "is a rare series that takes more creative risks as it goes along."Bilge Ebiri, writing for the website Vulture, also gave praises to the film, writing that with the intro being reminiscent of a Michael Haneke film, "the entire thing has a mesmeric, unreal quality, where things can turn on a dime, and often do." Overall, he stated that "if more action movies were like Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, the world would probably be a better place."