Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Apologies for the double colon up there in the title. That is some shitty punctuation. As penance, I will return at last to the shining shores of America for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Netflix, $3.99 on Amazon). I say America but judging by the accents of a lot of the main cast, I’d guess this thing was filmed almost entirely in some impoverished Slavic nation. (Note: false.)
I haven’t seen any of the direct-to-video sequels between the excellent first Universal Soldier and this one. I would argue, however, that seeing them would not in any way enhance the story. From what I gather, the history is totally irrelevant except for the basic, muddy UniSol mythology, which now includes cloning and remote control brainwashing. OBVI. According to Wikipedia the protagonist in Day of Reckoning is a brand new character who was never introduced/referenced in any of the other FIVE movies. Nor was it even hinted previously that Van Damme’s character was about to turn evil, which apparently he is now. Fucking RAD. All that insane non-sequitur makes for a movie that plays out almost as a genuine mystery. Think of it as a passable knockoff of The Bourne Identity, mixed with Hard to Kill, and flavored with Apocalypse Now. It’s not nearly as good as any of those movies, but if your head didn’t immediately start bobbing up and down, slathering with excitement over the ramifications of that sentence, well, I’m afraid I just don’t know you anymore.
Day of Reckoning has a shockingly slow burn for such a violent action movie. It aims for lofty pretentiousness but only halfheartedly, so you can feel free to let your mind wander while burly heroes and villains pontificate for eight minutes on end for no damn reason. But when you boil it down to its essentials, you’re thankfully left with some seriously brutal martial arts ass kickery, though you wouldn’t know it from the first half. There are plenty of minor fights and stunts sequences, but in the second half we get a ersatz twist that, despite its obviousness, really amps things up. And, hey, Dolph can still pull off the bleach-blonde-and-shirtless look.
Added bonus: Okay people it’s time someone came forward and talked about this. We’ve all been thinking it for 20 years: just what, the FUCK, is that thing on Van Damme’s forehead? Why didn’t he get it removed when he was a huge star with tons of money? Even now, there are still plenty of affordable treatment options.