DVD Review: Universal Soldier - Day of Reckoning

Over twenty years on from the original Universal Soldier, we're now venturing on to the fourth entry in the action film series. Fortunately, bucking the trend of most sequels, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is the finest entry in the series since the original 1992 film.

Day of Reckoning introduces us to a new protagonist, John (Scott Adkins), a man who wakes up from a coma haunted by the murder of his wife and child. He soon seeks revenge, hunting Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), an original Universal Soldier who now heads a rogue order of genetically enhanced soldiers, alongside his former enemy Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

Director, John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Regeneration) brings a completely fresh and brutal aesthetic to the series, presenting us with some visceral, exhilarating action sequences. Hyams directs with a ferocious, fast-paced energy that is ably matched by stars Adkins, Van Damme and Lundgren. Refusing to simply be bound by the action genre, Hyams incorporates elements of horror, the war film and dark science fiction into his screenplay, resulting in a highly original addition to the series.

We are presented with a plethora of modern, gritty action sequences with numerous standouts. One sequence sees Andrei Arlovski and Adkins battling in a sports shop, choreographed in a convincing, hard-hitting manner. Every blow, bone-crunch or smash hits the audience as if they were there, truly immersing us in the dark and brutal world of a Universal Soldier. Series veterans, Van Damme and Lundgren prove equally as authentic in their fight sequences, able to hold their own against the comparatively younger Adkins. Lundgren's fight with Adkins is as equally unpredictable and fast-paced as the aforementioned sequence.

The ending in particular pays more than a little homage to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. After an unsettling journey down a darkened river, we see that Luc Deveraux has become a reclusive, Colonel Kurtz like figure. This atmosphere of isolation is perfect in helping maintain the sinister foreboding that has been so prevalent throughout the feature. This builds up to a masterful conclusion pitting Deveraux against John in a frantic and blisteringly energetic finale, proving Van Damme remains at his peak.

Hyams screenplay pays fitting tribute to these iconic characters, by transporting them in a realistic and fresh environment (which is surely a challenge by film four), giving us a realistic interpretation of where these soldiers would be twenty years on. Adkins proves himself to be one of the finest action stars working today, being equally convincing as both a dramatic actor and martial artists. Lundgren also has the opportunity to show off some dramatic clout through some well-written monologues, whilst Van Damme is at his most menacing in this darker and more chilling take on Deveraux.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is a delight from start to finish. Not only does it take the series in a completely revitalized direction, it presents us with the most ferocious and brutal Universal Soldier feature thus far. Scott Adkins continues to prove himself as one of the most talented action stars working today, whilst Lundgren and Van Damme continue delight with their undeniable screen-presence.

Universal Soldier is released on DVD, Blu-ray and limited edition 3D & 2D steelbook from 11 February, 2013


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