'Your mind is your own…freedom is yours.'
Cinema Rising is excited to partner with Video Bazaar for a very special collab screening of John Hyams's visionary oddity Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, screening November 23rd at The Garden Cinema.
In 2012, a direct-to-video entry in a decades-spanning action franchise became the subject of unlikely critical attention. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, the sixth film in the Universal Solider series, abandoned any reverence for the original in favour of a provocative, haunting approach, inspired by the films of Michael Haneke, David Lynch, and Gaspar Noe.
1992’s Universal Soldier is a Rolan Emmerich-directed Terminator rip-off that united action movie icons Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as subjects of a government programme that resurrects U.S. military fatalities, wipes their memories and re-deploys them as perfect killing machines. After two made-for-TV sequels, the series returned to cinemas with Universal Soldier: The Return, before John Hyams took over the franchise in 2009, moving away from the rote action movie stylings that came before. Universal Soldier: Regeneration hinted at a radically different MO that was as influenced by European film-festival shockmeisters as much the Dianabol-infused action films of yore, an aesthetic principle Hyams would double down on for Day of Reckoning.
Day of Reckoning is something of a miracle, the kind of film that gets made when reverence for the IP is disregarded in favour of artistic ambition. By the time of the film’s release, the Universal Soldier franchise was not exactly held in high regard, which freed Hyams up to venture into exciting new territory with seemingly little oversight from top brass (the low budget is without question a contributing factor). The film stars English DTV don Scott Adkins as John, a subject of the Universal Soldier programme grappling with the fractured memories of his old life. His quest for revenge against the men responsible for murdering his wife and child leads him to Van Damme’s Luc Devereaux, now a Colonel Kurtz-esque figure building an army of rogue UniSol subjects.
Set against sparsely populated signifiers of American decay and concerning the overwhelming trauma of US military veterans, Day of Reckoning still succeeds as an expertly directed action film. While drilling deep into the disillusioned volatility of millennial masculinity, Day of Reckoning is nevertheless filled with astonishing setpieces that let the cast of MMA fighters and stuntmen shine. Rest assured, prior knowledge of the franchise is not required, come through and experience it for yourself.
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren