“Universal Soldier 4: Day of Reckoning”
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and pervasive gruesome violence
Running time: 113 minutes
Distributor: Magnet Pictures
John (Scott Adkins) was sadistically beaten with tire irons and left for dead by three assassins dressed like ninjas during a home invasion. When he came out of his coma nine months later, all he could remember about the attack was how his wife and daughter had been murdered right in front of his eyes by a creep who had the nerve to taunt him.
In fact, their assailant, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) even had the temerity to remove his mask and show his face. As he recovered from his wounds, John realizes he doesn’t have much to live for with his family gone. So, he decides to take the law into his own hands, rather than wait for the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
That is the deceptive point of departure of “Universal Soldier 4: Day of Reckoning,” a high body-count splatterflick ostensibly revolving around an embittered vigilante bent on revenge, ala Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Directed by John Hyams, the film is the fourth in a grisly franchise launched way back in 1992.
The plot thickens while John is searching for Deveraux, when he finds himself being relentlessly hunted by a mysterious figure (Andrei Arlovski).
Furthermore, getting to Deveraux proves easier said than done, since he is protected by an army of rogue Universal Soldiers in his capacity as high priest of the Unisol Church of Eventualism.
Previously, these liberated Unisols had been remote-controlled sleeper agents, operating under the thumb of the government like latter-day Manchurian candidates. But trust me, trying to sort out this complicated storyline isn’t worth the time, since just about everybody is about to get gutted or have his head lopped off.
Appreciation of this installment doesn’t depend on any knowledge of what’s transpired in the earlier episodes, since this bloody free-for-all is designed for that demo of film fans with an insatiable appetite for gratuitous gore. So gruesome, it makes Peckinpah look like Winnie the Pooh.