Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning 2012 ★★★½

70/100

An astonishing cinematic Brundlefly, as if copies of the Universal Soldier franchise had accidentally gotten into the telepod alongside the complete works of Noé, Lynch and the Wachowskis. First two reels are virtually nonstop abstraction, disorienting and ominous; even without having seen any of the previous installments, I could tell that bearings were in deliberately short supply. Then the ass-kicking commences, so singlemindedly ferocious that all you can do is gape. Because the initial raves came from many of the same folks who think Tony Scott was Hollywood's one true genius, I admit that I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder going in, but Hyams knocked it off almost immediately. He excels—and this is rare—at both kineticism and stillness, orchestrating mayhem with the spatial dexterity of an old pro but also somehow managing to sit two very mediocre actors across a table from each other and derive real tension from their banal conversation, just by lighting the room effectively and punctuating sentences with the suggestion of headlights from traffic just outside. Truly, the only thing holding this sucker back from greatness is the bothersome fact that it's a Universal Soldier sequel—every so often, Hyams and his co-writers clearly feel obligated to acknowledge expectations, trotting out Van Damme and Lundgren for what amount to weary cameos. It's never more than lip service, though, and the next self-sufficient, eye-popping setpiece is never more than a few minutes away. Hopefully, the hype will allow Hyams to make something that'll function like a proper movie next time, rather than "pardon me while I Bogart this series to create one helluva two-hour demo reel."

14 Comments

  • You should give his previous Universal Soldier movie a look now. It may not immediately impress you as much, given that it's nowhere near as bugfuck insane in its mash-up of influences, but it should help you to appreciate the sheer scope of what Hyams has achieved with this series, perhaps even in terms of thematic integrity, and to further witness the versatility of his formal chops.

  • ...I did not see this coming.

  • Had a feeling you would like this one! Hope you don't mind I linked to this to share with other fans of Mssrs. Hyams & D'Angelo --
    www.outlawvern.com/2012/11/03/universal-soldier-day-of-reckoning/#comment-2988490

    Also, Rowland is correct.

  • Jeesh, what's yr beef with Tony Scott?

  • Top Gun. Beverly Hills Cop II. Revenge. Days of Thunder. Man on Fire. The Raping of the Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.

  • Well, shit. When you put it like that...

  • But that's like judging the Stones on the basis of "Harlem Shuffle"...

  • Crimson Tide, Unstoppable and Deja Vu are not exactly Exile on Main St. or Let It Bleed.

  • You forgot Domino.

  • The Tony Scott R.I.P.'ing segued into an orgy of appreciation for his auteurism the past few months, which has been enlightening
    (and possibly infuriating or bittersweet if you just can't get on the Tony Scott wavelength),
    but I don't think many of the apologists or fans are really trying to convince everyone that his entire oeuvre is the work of "Hollywood's one true genius." Rather, we have highlighted that there is evidence of *some* hitherto ignored genius, some deliberate artistic coloration & clever framing that indicates a director's reach beyond usual Hollywood genre films' grasp, to be found in some of his works.
    DÉJÀ VU is especially worth exploring for its meta elements and as a statement of everything Scott was trying to do with the trickier elements of time, perspective, and manipulation of time & perspective in the latter part of his career.

  • Don't forget the way that Tony Scott dealt with time. And perspective.

  • You forgot Domino.

    No. I did not.

  • Domino is best forgotten.

  • I'm no apologist and I don't know if I'd call myself an outright 'fan'; I'm at least as torn on Tony Scott as a director as Mike is, if not more. He's not the only Scott director that applies to, that's for sure (don't get me started on Prometheus, it's like the SW prequel of the Alien franchise atm).

    I will say Tony does have more affinity and for the characters that populate his work on the whole than Ridley, and sometimes he can vitalize a small role like few other modern directors can. He did start to mature and evolve as a British director out of his native pond in the later part of his career despite never budging out of developed setting pieces, where his work tends to have more humanity in it overall, while Ridley is (still) more aloof. Unfortunately, where he mirrors his older brother is that his success is practically tethered to the strength of his material and the people he collaborates with (that would explain why I most prefer his work with Gene Hackman, one of the better contemporary actors).

    The Last Boy Scout, believe it or not, is the only one of Tony's early works (i.e. the first half of his filmography until '94) I feel anything more than ambivalence or apathy toward (and it's still my least favorite of his movies I can say that about in a walk).

    I agree Domino is crap. Unpleasant and hollow. True Romance, ditto (in spite of some interesting supporting actors).

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