Movie Review: 'Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning' -- 2.5 stars

Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Universal

Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" (Credit: Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning")

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
2.5 stars
Directed by John Hyams
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren
Rated R

Here's a surprise: The fourth official "Universal Soldier" movie, the third sequel to a low-rent 1992 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, isn't half-bad.

In fact, had "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" featured a story that mirrored its impressive style, it'd have actually been a successful genre effort.

It's 2012, so that bears repeating. The fourth "Universal Soldier," starring Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, is an arty action flick that's almost worth watching.

The odds of director John Hyams pulling off such a feat were only slightly worse than winning Powerball.

To refresh your memory, in case you haven't visited the "Universal Soldier" world in two decades, the franchise is centered on dead troops re-animated by the Army and turned into an elite fighting unit.

The fourth time around, things are centered on John (Scott Adkins), who watches UniSol Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) murder his wife and daughter. A perplexing revenge story commences.

This "Universal Soldier" has a grungy sprit, manifest in gruesome violence that's rendered in slow-motion and with vivid first-person POV interludes. The depressed setting -- the movie was shot in lower-end Baton Rouge, La. locales -- and noirish sensibility add to the despairing feel.

After "The Expendables 2," Van Damme and Lundgren continue a revival of sorts, and their presence is a welcome respite from the sorry lot that passes for action stars these days.

Their best efforts are sadly undone, though, by a muddled narrative that amounts to nothing.

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