'Universal Soldier' franchise won’t die

Reviewer's Rating: ★★

Action-movie Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning specializes in bloody fights and relentless pursuits.

The hard-to-kill Universal Soldier series began in 1992 when Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren played rival cyborgs in the series’ first film. For the new, ultra-violent Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, they’re on the same team even though they never actually share a scene.

Original cyborgs Van Damme and Lundgren get quite a bit of screen time in the made-in-Baton Rouge Day of Reckoning. The story’s focus is a guy named John whose wife and young daughter get slaughtered during a horrific home invasion.

Surviving the attack, John eventually awakens from a beating-induced coma. Once he realizes what happened, John, played by the earnest, ready to rumble Scott Adkins, vows to destroy the person who dispatched his family so viciously.

John’s challenges in exacting revenge include his almost non-existent memory. Upon returning to his empty suburban house, he experiences disturbing flashes of memory and visions that are more nightmares than memories.

The mystery of why John and his innocent family were attacked drives Day of Reckoning forward. Another mystery arises when a seemingly normal plumber suddenly turns super strong and super violent, his only goal being to kill John.

Although Day of Reckoning has Universal Soldier in its title, it owes much to the craziest movies in the David Lynch filmography. That includes Reckoning’s surrealist images, garish colors, freak-out soundtrack and sometimes incomprehensible plot developments. There’s some Apocalypse Now in there, too.

Van Damme, after making an early appearance in the film, shows up later as Luc Deveraux, the charismatic leader of a cyborg cult. As for being stone-faced and emotionless, Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger has nothing on former pretty boy Van Damme.

While Van Damme’s Deveraux keeps his eyes on a grand cyborg scheme, Lundgren shows up as an absolutely gleeful cyborg. His character revels in brutality, delighting in a protracted one-on-one, bunker-set battle with Adkins’ John.

The prolifically blood-splattered Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning has rather good production values, even though one particular car chase scene obviously shows the identical stretch of a local overpass again and again. Once the movie’s mysteries are revealed, Day of Reckoning earn its stripes as one of those bad movies that’s so bad it’s good, in its bad way.