Look, I can't even begin to describe to you what's going on with the story here. It's far, far too batshit to even begin to describe, but let's just say it involves mind control, secret militias, cloning, and Van Damme wearing inexplicable face paint at the end of the film.
Would you believe me if I told you that the one movie that aesthetically informs Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning above all else is Gaspar Noe's batshit arthouse film about the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Enter The Void? Well it's true. The first-person scenes, the 'sex hotel', and even the strobing effect that's used perhaps a bit more often than it needs to be (sorry, epileptics!) are all evocative of Noe's style. Of course, there's a lot more kicking here, and the gore effects are a little more extreme, but at its root, this is a ridiculous action film that desperately wants to be taken super seriously.
Be warned: this film is a very hard 'R' rating, with just about every kind of violence represented here in some form or another. Fingers and toes are severed, heads are separated from bodies with bats, and much more. The action sequences are surprisingly brutal and every hit feels like it has real impact, just as you'd expect from a bunch of jacked-up genetically-modified super soldiers. And the last ten minutes, oh my, what a delightful, unrelenting orgy of violence that I haven't seen the likes of since The Blind Side.
To be honest, the title alone should tell you if you're ever going to want to watch this film. It's a bunch of super soldiers wailing on each other for almost the entire running time of the movie, with a plot that you will try (and fail) to decipher stringing it all together. I guess if I had a gripe, it's that it takes a little longer than I'd prefer to get to the kicking, but it really doesn't let up once it finally begins. If you're looking for a great popcorn flick with some real edge to it, this won't disappoint.
On a final note, and in what seems to be a trend with the movies at After Dark this year, the trailer simply does not do this film justice and, in fact, it's kind of misleading. But here it is anyway.
Stay tuned all week for more reviews from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. You can find them all here.
This review was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.
Photo: Van Damme and Scott Adkins in a friendly hug