UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012)
D. JOHN HYAMS
This was a huge surprise. We popped this on expecting some silly action thrills, nothing too heady or taxing. What we got was an action movie by way of Gasper Noe. Everything in this production is bigger, bolder, more wild and deeply dark. The opening scene sucker punches you and it rarely lets up from there.
Martial artist Scott Atkins is the actual lead this time around, playing a special forces soldier. He has a great family and loves his job. That is until Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme playing the villain here) storms his house, murders his family and leaves him for dead. When our hero gets out of the hospital some months later he goes after the paramilitary group that killed his family.
The story is actually a great deal more complex than that. But where the movie excels is in the direction and cinematography department. Which should come as no surprise since director John Hyams is the son of Peter Hyams (who in fact directed Van Damme in TIMECOP). The camera prowls and climbs, often sitting right behind character's heads just like in ENTER THE VOID. Nothing is ever covered from an expected vantage point. But when it comes time for the fight scenes the movie really shines. None of that Hollywood seven million cuts in one scene business. These are covered well but with minimal editing so you can get the feel and impact of the violence. Another trick Hyams uses is to use "ramp motion" where the footage starts at normal speed, slows way down, then speeds up when someone makes contact, then back to normal speed. He also does the old MONTY PYTHON trick of cutting out a frame or two upon the impact of a punch. It makes it look like it landed, very hard.
The movie is also hyper violent. So violent in fact that the movie had to be re-edited to get an R rating. This hasn't happened for a while since the MPAA loosens their grip a little bit. So that actually shows you how brutal this is.
Dolph Lungren is back in a couple of scenes still playing a super soldier, and Van Damme is just tearing up the screen as the bad guy. If you had told me even ten years ago Van Damme would make good on his career AND deliver good performances, I would ha said you were crazy. But here its (see his other recent film 6 BULLETS for more of Van Damme carrying his weight). Scott Atdkins is surprisingly decent as a leading man too.
Basically if you are an action fan of any sort it is criminal to miss this movie.
Review © Andrew Copp
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