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Film / Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

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Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is the sixth movie in the Universal Soldier film series. It was released to video-on-demand services in October 2012, followed by a theatrical release one month later. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren return to reprise their roles as Luc Deveraux and Andrew Scott while frequent Van Damme collaborator and successor Scott Adkins stars as new protagonist John, a man who loses his family in a home invasion led by Deveraux. Warned by the FBI not to go after Deveraux himself, John does so anyway and begins to uncover a bigger plot being purported by unseen forces, leading him to a final showdown with the former UniSol.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Evil: There is a certain amount of ambiguity about precisely how villainous Luc Devereaux has become from previous movies. While he's clearly not exactly well-adjusted in the film, he spends most of the events quietly brooding, leaving most of the direct survivalist-management villainy to Scott 3.0. He also has a reasonably just cause, opposing what is very heavily implied to be an unscrupulous government which destroys men in order to turn them into unfeeling killing machines. Tellingly, the only actively villainous thing we ever see him do — murdering John's family — is an implanted false memory and never actually happened.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Devereaux is the de-facto leader of the Liberated UniSol Army, despite being the oldest of the surviving original first-generation UniSols. Why?
    • He was the first to overcome the effects of the memory clearance drug and ignore the commands of his Black Tower handlers.
    • He defeated Andrew Scott not once, but twice despite the latter's advantages over him (the second time around, he was not only benefiting from regular UniSol augmentations but also the gene therapy augmentations given to the Next Generation UniSols of Operation White Tower. Not even Devereaux himself had those when they reactivated him)
    • He managed to single-handedly take down a company of battle-hardened terrorists and an Next-Generation UniSol.
    • On top of that, over the five years since the end of Regeneration, he's been going around to all of the bases where the UniSols are being kept, and liberating them, along with the Sleeper UniSols as well.
    • Because of his feats, the other UniSols see him as someone they would gladly follow into hell and back.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: By this time, the UniSols have forgone the awesome firepower that they are used to, along with the advanced body armor and combat uniforms, and have gone completely old school. They look less like a professional army, and more like a guerrilla army, with clothing and equipment taken from different time periods, ranging from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Their weapons even reflect this as well, with lots of Vietnam War Era M16s and AK-47s. Scott 3.0 runs around wearing clothing components from infantrymen in World War II, along with combat boots from The Vietnam War Era. Deveraux himself goes the route of Colonel Kurtz by wearing an M65 Field Jacket, along with matching pants and combat boots.
  • Ax-Crazy: Scott 3.0 takes it up a notch. Aside from looking like a butch version of Priss from Blade Runner in combat gear in the armory fight, He starts off the fight by punching John in the face, with his tongue sticking out as He decks him, followed by emptying live ammo into the gun rack and at John during the firefight portion of the armory fight. He also spends most of the fight hooping, grunting and hollering like a deranged gorilla on drugs. What makes it even crazier is the fact that he was more than willing to unload an AT-4 Rocket Launcher within the confines of the armory without any consideration for what might happen.
  • Barbell Beating: The film has a fight between John and Magnus in a sporting goods store, both men battering the hell out of each other with anything they can get their hands on, including John grabbing a set of barbell weights and repeatedly using it to pummel Magnus' face, skull, and at one point testicles.
  • Batter Up!: How John finally defeats Magnus. Replete with Made of Plasticine moment.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the first few movies, the violence in this one is absolutely brutal. It actually had to trim down a bit to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: Scott's final rampage in the Unisol base. He starts off wearing a white tank top and ends up wearing a red one.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The final battle between John and Deveraux takes place in the church within the UniSol compound.
  • Blown Across the Room: Almost everyone who Magnus kills with his pump-action shotgun is affected this way, especially the hookers he kills. Even the UniSols, with their bulky sizes, get blown across the room. It does help that he's using rifled slugs in a close-quarters environment.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Wall-to-WALL headshots.
  • Born as an Adult: The doctors at the secret UniSol base inform the protagonist, John, that he was in fact one in a line of cloned humans with fake memories and that he was only born a few weeks before.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The sleeper UniSols are implanted false memories and false identity when they are activated. They attempted to remove John's false memory implants, and he ends up going berserk when they try to remove his happy memories.
  • Darker and Edgier: The film is much darker than any of the previous installments and the culmination of a major tone shift for the series. The original Universal Soldier is your typical cheesy 1990s Action Hero flick where Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren duke it out. Universal Soldier: Regeneration is already darker, as an older Luc Deveraux is still struggling with re-integrating into the world after his unexpected resurrection. Day of Reckoning takes it to the point where there's not an ounce of comedy or camp. The film opens with the murder of the protagonist's family by a now-evil Deveraux who has taken after Colonel Kurtz, the fight scenes are incredibly brutal and gory (try to count the sheer number of headshots, for one), and the concept of Unisols as cloned, brainwashed sleeper agents with fake memories makes for some nice Paranoia Fuel. It's really more of a Cyberpunk noir flick.
  • Dark Messiah: Luc Deveraux becomes this. He is seen as a messianic figure by the liberated UniSols, and has created a church-like compound deep in the swamps of Louisiana. They are seen as a separatist group by the US Government.
  • Deconstruction: Day of Reckoning deconstructs the typical Roaring Rampage of Revenge action flick (i.e. the reluctant hero avenges the murder of his beloved ones by taking down an evil organization lead by the Big Bad). It starts off with the unexplained, morbid murder of John’s family by Luc Deveraux. However, it is revealed that the “murder” is just an implanted memory, and that the “reluctant hero taking revenge” (John) is actually a lab-grown clone who was specifically designed to kill the rogue Luc Deveraux, who is not really evil rather than disillusioned and having had enough of the abuse he suffered in the past.
  • Den of Iniquity: The UniSol Brothel. All of the UniSols there engage in some really freaky sex. One of the UniSols has his hand nailed into a table by a prostate with a hammer.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: No one seems to care about the prostitutes killed in the massacre at the brothel.
  • Dynamic Entry: Scott 3.0 starts off his fight with John by walking up to the latter from behind, and punching the man hard enough in the face to knock him clear on to his ass.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Well, not super fancy or anything. The Liberated Unisols Underground Base is pretty snazzy. Very rustic, grungy and quite possibly smelly, since its in the middle of a freaking swamp in Louisiana. It has everything a budding army of liberated supersoldiers need, including a laboratory/medical bay, rooms for Unisols to duke it out in, barracks, a church(of all things) and other amenities as well. Has better OSHA standards than other Elaborate Underground Bases.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Lundgren's second clone maintains the tradition.
  • Expy: Deveraux starts taking on Colonel Kurtz-esque traits. At this point in his existence, Devereaux has taken on a legendary status. He's also noticeably infamous, as the FBI and government in general considers Devereaux to be a military deserter, much like Kurtz had become. And like Kurtz, Devereaux was in a Special Forces unit and had committed his fair share of atrocities and became disillusioned with how things had become.
  • Eye Scream: Although Devereaux isn't actually shown shooting John's daughter, he imagines seeing her with a bloody eye socket during one of his hallucinations.
  • Face Death with Dignity: After an violent battle with John, Deveraux finally sees him as a successor to the group, being aware that the government created him and implanted false memories of Deveraux murdering John's family. Showing some sympathy to John's plight, Deveraux allows John to fatally wound him by stabbing him in the chest, entrusting John to take over the separatist group for the remaining UniSols.
    Deveraux: (last words) There is no end.... always another, John.
  • Fake Memories: Cloned UniSols can be implanted with false memories of their past lives. It's revealed that John himself never had a family that was murdered by Deveraux. He doesn't let this stop him from killing Deveraux, and he ultimately holds the government agent who gave him the memory responsible for killing his "family".
  • Film Noir: The story is the closest to a neo-noir movie out of any of the series installments.
  • Fingore: In a fight in an apartment bathroom, John loses three of his fingers to Magnus wielding a fireman's axe.
  • First-Person Perspective: The opening scene: we see, from John's POV, the discovery of the hooded UniSol's in his kitchen, his subsequent beatdown, and the murder of his wife and daughter by Devereaux.
  • Flash Back Echo: Strobe lights are used to simulate whenever the UniSols are being freed from their mind control and when they're having flashback echoes of their lives.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The brothel massacre shows (among other victims) a man who attempts to take on the shotgun-wielding UniSol while fully nude. He doesn't even manage to get close to said shotgun-wielding UniSol and gets blasted three times in retaliation.
  • Gorn: The movie is awash in it. Special note goes to Magnus' attack on the UniSol brothel, the hotel fight between Magnus and John, John's discovery of his friend Isaac with a mutilated head and face, John's special surgery, and John's subsequent fight throughout the UniSol HQ.
  • Healing Factor: It is shown that cloned UniSols like Magnus and John, are able to regrow severed appendages and limbs. Magnus grows back the front part of his foot that John hacked off, and John regrows the fingers that Magnus lopped off.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Agent Gorman uses John to eliminate Deveraux and his renegade UniSol army. He kills Deveraux, becomes their new leader and kills Gorman, but not before cloning him.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Liberated UniSols have the control chip at the back of their necks removed, and its a tell-tale indicator that the UniSol in question is liberated. It's also mentioned that sleeper UniSols can be triggered at will by an implant in their brains, which dissolves their fake memories and identities and switches them on for operations. John never had his memories dissolved, so he went in to have them removed. It was part of his ploy to infiltrate the UniSol compound.
  • Homage: The last third of the movie is one long homage to Apocalypse Now, as John travels upriver to confront the insane baldheaded former soldier (Deveraux) and his private cult deep in the hot jungle/swamp.
  • Klingon Promotion: After killing Deveraux, John becomes the leader of the UniSols.
  • Lobotomy: Dr. Su attempts this on John to erase his memories. He fails when John breaks free after having yet another vision of his fake family.
  • Made of Iron: Magnus gets the crap kicked out of him by John during their sporting goods store brawl, including multiple impacts from an aluminum bat, a weight from a weightlifting set and other injuries. They slow him down, but deal no lasting damage. John himself survives many heavy impacts, including being thrown through a wall of bedrock by another Unisol and having Devereaux punch the back of his head into solid bedrock, and almost getting his arm cut off with a sharpened machete.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The idea of using a UniSol as The Mole is taken from Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: They begin manufacturing Cloned Super UniSols that are used as Sleeper Agents, complete with implanted fake memories and lives that can be dissolved with the switch of a button when they're activated. They can be anyone you know, anywhere, at any time. These Cloned Super UniSols are much more stronger, tougher and faster than both regular UniSols and Super UniSols, and they can grow back severed parts of their limbs and appendages.
  • One-Man Army: John becomes this after he is captured by the UniSol Army. He proceeds to wipe the floor with a lot of UniSols attempting to stop him, and takes down both Scott and Deveraux in the process.
  • The Oner: During John's rampage in the UniSol Compound before fighting Scott and Deveraux.
  • Pineapple Surprise: During his rampage through the Unisol Compound, John pulls the pin from the grenade mounted on the vest of one of the attacking Unisols, before shoving him back into the room he came out of. There were additional grenades on his tactical vest, and since they all went off, the chances of said Unisol surviving are pretty much non-existent.
  • The Power of Love: Played with. At the end, it is revealed that the various UniSols the government sent to assassinate Devereaux all failed and fell under his spell because they were only driven by love of country, which was easily smashed when Devereaux convinced them that they were just expendable and soulless puppets manipulated by the government to do its bidding. John, however, was programmed with a "selfish" motive — grief and a desire for vengeance after the 'murder' of his family — which enabled him to push through and succeed. He is thus more successful because his love for his family gave him a 'soul' that the other UniSols ultimately lacked, even if that family never existed.
  • Rule of Symbolism: It deals with the vagaries of memory and identity, and how armed services could be seen as a form of slavery, especially if its forced. The usage of the strobe light effects when a Unisol is having the memory clearance drug removed from their minds, along with being freed from control at the hands of the government. It is also accompanied by a particular sound effect that makes it all the more unsettling. Strobe lights and said sound effect are also used in other situations in the movie, especially whenever John is dealing with threats in his environment and he's aware of it.
  • Scenery Porn: Louisiana gets this treatment.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: The whole purpose of John and John 2.0, was to infiltrate the Liberated UniSol Army, and to kill not only Devereaux and Scott, but all of the liberated UniSols as well.
  • Shout-Out:
    • John is transported to the UniSol Church compound via motorboat. The entire scene and the accompanying music sequence is very evocative of Apocalypse Now, and the subsequent meeting with Colonel Kurtz.
    • Luc Deveraux has become a legendary figure, similar to Kurtz. He has now turned against the government who has been using him and his fellow brothers-in-arms as disposable tools.
    • Also like Apocalypse Now, it's something of a a revenge fantasy of a traumatized vet, and has some similarities with the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, with aspects of body horror, false memories and identities, and more.
    • It also has a Jacob's Ladder vibe to it, as the movie itself can be seen as a dying man or a man being reborn, struggling to deal with his inner demons.
    • There's one to Irréversible in the form of strobe lights.
    • There's also one to Evil Dead 2, in the form of John being grabbed by Devereaux during a hallucination while in the bathroom looking into a mirror, in a manner similar to Ash being grabbed by Mirror Ash.
    • And yet another one to The Shining, involving Magnus making an hole in the door into Sarah's apartment with his axe, and looking through it in a manner similar to Jack Torrance and his infamous "Here's Johnny!" scene.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Deveraux is now the main antagonist.
  • Super-Strength:
    • Magnus does severe amounts of damage to the apartment he and John are fighting in, smashing the latter into a bathroom counter with enough force to demolish it. Later on, during their brawl, John uses his Super-Strength to punch a bowling ball with his non-mangled hand and beat the crap out of Magnus using everything he can get his hands on, including a heavy weight from a weightlifting set. He also uses this in combination with a metal baseball bat, to decapitate the weakened and injured Magnus.
    • During his attack on the Unisol Compound, John proceeds to kill a UniSol with a hammer, and another one by stomping on him.
  • Title Drop: Scott says "the day of reckoning" in his speech.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: John isn’t a reluctant hero who’s family was killed by Luc Deveraux, he is actually a lab-grown clone with False Memories designed by the government to kill Deveraux.
  • Unwitting Pawn: John.
  • Villainous Valor: Deveraux seemingly becomes a villain, only because he's looking to free his fellow UniSols from enslavement. The way he goes about this is rather villainous, but his intentions are good.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: We get to see first-hand what its like for a Unisol, after he's been liberated from the control of his government handlers. They engage in violent lifestyles, drinking a lot, engaging in acts of violence, violent sex, and masochism to cope with the emptiness that comes from being reanimated augmented servicemembers who've had their memories and personality violently suppressed with a powerful memory clearance drug, and made addicts with a performance booster. They're no longer nameless entities assigned numeric callsigns. They're now nightmare and PTSD-addled supersoldier zombies trying to rediscover who they are, fueled by a rage and hate that comes from being slaves for the machinations of the government.
  • The Worf Effect: Happens to the NGU clone.