Death of the Critic

Why did I Watch That? - Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Written by: Tom Blaich


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.


In the realm of bad movies, occasionally the stars align and a perfect storm can form. A storm that draws me into its eye to endure yet another two hours of terrible writing and acting, with entirely too much CGI blood. Somewhere, a BBC weather reporter wakes from a deep slumber. Yet another
Universal Soldier sequel has formed over the Pacific, and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren promise to wreak havoc upon our collective minds. To make things all the better, this time around, they decided to add in our old favorite, Scott Adkins into the mix, promising 20% more biceps than normal.

Yet even with all of that going against them, they managed to make a movie that is not only remarkably competent, but also kind of cool at some point. The fourth iteration in the longstanding series (or sixth if you count the two made-for-TV movies),
Day of Reckoning has some complex canon to contend with, clones and super soldier serums and alternate histories to navigate with a cast of actors more suited to drop kicks than dramatic monologues.


This time around, we follow series newcomer John (Adkins) who is out for revenge against Luc Deveraux for the killing of his family. Since his last rodeo, however, Deveraux has managed to gain some meat headed new allies in both Andrew Scott (Lundgren), his longtime adversary, and returning soldier Magnus (Andrei Arlovski).

The film starts out simply enough, but within a half an hour, there are enough serums and clones and double crosses to make your head spin. It’s all wrapped up in a blanket of some good ol’ fashioned ultraviolence to give the screen some more color, but by the halfway point, the story had completely lost me with its twists and turns and inherent absurdity.

This is not to say that the film is deep or complicated or even complex. It just doesn’t make a lick of sense. But in the last half an hour or so, this pretty much ceases to matter, as John goes from being a regular, if kind of tough guy, to being a goddamn super soldier. He fights Magnus in a sporting goods store after a car chase, and at some point during it, a switch flips inside of him, and he just beats the hell out of the muscle bound Russian super soldier. He slings around 45 pound plates like they were Frisbees, and is more than a little lethal with a baseball bat, as he pulls a
Raid 2 on Arlovski’s face.


After this, he then goes to find the base full of universal soldiers, and in an effort to make things less confusing for us as an audience, John kills everyone. You know how these things are. You’re a normal guy searching for the weird French killer of your wife, and then all of a sudden you’re killing MMA fighters with a baseball bat and going on murderous rampage through vaguely “military” tunnels as you gun down everyone in your path.

It’s a rather impressive sequence for a movie as bad as this, and it is scenes like this where Adkins actually manages to shine. He’s a very physical actor, much better suited to bullets, blades, and brawls than to those finicky human emotions like love, surprise, or having normal reactions to things. You feel like he might actually be able to hold his own in these fights, and it makes you wonder a bit why they even had anything in this movie besides action, because it’s so much better when the bullets start flying.

For once, a film managed to surpass its awful pedigree to make something that is genuinely fun. The story is absolutely nonsensical (to say the least) and no one here is what I’d call a “Good Actor”, but that doesn’t even really matter. You don’t need to be familiar with the franchise, (and honestly you probably shouldn’t be) to be able to enjoy this movie.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

You Might Also Like:
Why Did I Watch That? - Hitman: Agent 47

Music with a Message

Anatomy of a Film - Foxcatcher

Images courtesy of Magnet

blog comments powered by Disqus