'Universal Soldier

Day of Reckoning' Whereupon We Wonder, What Were They Thinking?

by Ben Travers

24 January 2013

A surprisingly respectful effort to squeeze a few more dollars out of a dying franchise, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is ambitiously shot and choreographed if not flawlessly conceived, sort of.

There've Been Four Universal Soldiers?! Wait. There've Been Six?!?

cover art

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Blu-ray)

Director: John Hyams
Cast: Scott Adkins, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Mariah Bonner

(Foresight Unlimited, Signature Pictures, Baumgarten Management and Productions, Modern VideoFilm)
US DVD: 22 Jan 2013

A hypothetical conversation between the filmmakers behind Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning in an attempt to understand the reasoning behind making this film.


PRODUCER 1 sits behind a large desk. Large, signed posters of Double Team and Simon Sez flank either side of him.

PRODUCER 2 trudges in and plops down on the couch opposite Producer 1. He lays down and buries his face in the pillows.

Producer 2: (long moan) Who would have thought this 3D thing would stick around? I mean, really people. We tried this 40 years ago and they knew better then.

Producer 1: It’s amazing what people will pay for. (gestures over his shoulders at the posters)

P2: But why didn’t we know that already? I mean, we’re great at selling schlock nobody needs!

P1: The best!

P2: The greatest!

P1: King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me! …No, really. My movies made more money than King Kong.

P2: So why didn’t we use it?

P1: What do we have that’s big enough for 3D? We don’t do animation. We don’t have superheroes. Heck, we don’t even have a franchise.

P2 sits up on the couch, excited

P2: Yes we do.

P1: What?

P2: A franchise. We have one.

P1: What? We do?

P2: Of course. One of the greatest franchises ever created.

P1: …Transformers?

P2: No. (deep sigh) Universal Soldier.

P1: What?! Universal Soldier? That’s been dead since the ‘90s.

P2: What are you talking about? We released the third one in 2009.

P1: Oh, yeah. I forgot.

P2: The point is we have a franchise! Let’s make another one…this time with 3D!

P1: Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Do people really want another Universal Soldier?

P1 and P2 exchange a look. Then they both break out in LAUGHTER.

P2: Like that’s ever mattered!

P1: No one wanted five Hobbit movies either, but the first one is on its way to a billion dollars!

P2: Yeah! And this is a great time for it! Jean-Claude was just in The Expendables 2 and Dolph was in BOTH of those!

P1: Oh, yeah! But didn’t the second one kind of stink? Shouldn’t we have higher standards?

P1 and P2 bust out in LAUGHTER again.

P1: Get out our list of ‘80s Action Directors Who Still Think It’s 1987.

P2: Damn. If only John McTiernan was available.


Producer 1 and Producer 2 sit across from DIRECTOR JOE. Producer 1 is sipping a beer while Producer 2 is eyeing the group getting ready to leave the table behind him. Director Joe is excited.

DIRECTOR JOE: I’m so glad to be here, gentlemen. I can’t tell you what an honor it is to even be considered for Universal Soldier 4.

P1: Don’t stick to that title. It’s temporary. We’re seeing if we can call it Universal Soldier 3D, you know, since it’s the third one and in 3D.

DJ: But there’s already been a third one. Actually, there’s been five movies if you count TV…

P1: Damn, I keep forgetting that! Was that you or me who forgot about US3 the other day?

P2 is distracted by the group behind him leaving. He lunges over the table and grabs a half-eaten plate of food and almost-empty margarita.

P2: What?

P1: Nothing. Anyway, we’re going to see if we can call it that anyway. You know, really sell the 3D angle.


P1: What we want you to do is, well, how do I put this…

P2: Work for cheap.

P1: Exactly.

DJ: Well, of course I’d consider taking some of the back end…

P1 & P2: (in unison) DEAL!

DJ: But I’d want some creative control over the film.

P1: Of course, of course.

DJ: I have a pretty dark vision…

P1: Sure, sure.

DJ: No, really. These guys have been through the ringer over the past however many movies. They can’t be ok, by now. Their minds have to be pretty fragile. I want to show their flashbacks in seizure-inducing flashes. I don’t want the audience to know if what they’re seeing is even real!

P2 looks up from his plate for the first time.

P2: Well…

P1: Yeah, that’s fine. Go for it.

DJ: Ok, great. I also was hoping to use a new actor as the lead.

P2: Wait. No. Jean-Claude has to be the star!

P1: (to P2) Hey! He’s working for back end points! Back. End. Points! (to DJ) Yes, that could work. Bring in some young blood, continue the franchise.

P2 seems relieved at this and goes back to licking his empty margarita glass.

DJ: Sure, but more because these guys are just too old to do a lot of the action stuff. I mean, Jean-Claude looked a little silly in The Expendables 2.

P1: You bite your tongue, buddy. JC is a good friend of mine, and he’s NEVER looked silly.

P2: Not even Double Team?

P1: I told you never to mention Double Team

DJ: Well, either way, I really want some new blood in there. I mean, the script is pretty complex and we really need some actors to pull it off.

P1: Like…Stone Cold Steve Austin?

P2: Randy Couture?

DJ: No, ACTORS. Not fighters.

P1 and P2 look confused. They stare at him blankly.

P1: Jason Statham?

P2: I don’t think we can afford him…

P1: Good point. No Statham.

DJ: I don’t want Statham!

P2: Good.

DJ: No, let’s get a young guy. A new name. You know, someone from TV maybe…maybe someone who studied in London…

P1: Oh, I’ve got it. I know just the guy. He’s perfect. Scott Adkins. All class. 

P2: Yes! He owes us! He would’ve never been in Pit Fighter without us.

P1: And he’s done some TV!

DJ: I’ve never heard of him…

P1 and P2: (in unison) Perfect!

DJ: All right, I’ll meet with him, but…

P1: (interrupting) Great! Now let’s get out of here before they bring the check…


P1 and P2 walk out of the building. P2 immediately reaches for his smokes and lights one up, fingers shaking..

P1: What the hell was that?

P2: I don’t know.

P1: I mean…it was so dark. So, very, very dark.

P2: I know.

P1: A little girl was shot in the head within the first five minutes! We can’t sell a movie with that! It’s too grim! How could he put that in there?

P2: I don’t know.

P1: I mean, I like that there was a lot of violence. We can work with that. But why such mean-spirited violence? It’s a goofy, sci-fi, action flick!

P2: I know.

P1: And that ending…why did he kill everyone? I mean I’m glad he did. Easier to sell. But…why?

P2: I don’t know.

Director Joe comes rushing out of the theater and slaps them on the back.

DJ: That was great! I’m so excited!

P1 looks at him skeptically. P2 takes a long drag from his cigarette.

DJ: Don’t worry, guys. I have a TON of behind-the-scenes-footage for the Blu-ray. Enough for a feature length doc on the making of the movie! We cover ev-ery-thing. Everything. Fans will love it!

P1: (under his breath) Maybe that can explain it to us…

P2: (under his breath) This may have to go straight to Blu-ray…

DJ: What?

P1: He said, “Great job, buddy!” And we mean it. Great work. We’ll call you again…

DJ smiles and waves goodbye as he gets in his Toyota Tundra and drives off.

P1: …never. Jesus.

P2: This may have to go straight to Blu-ray.

P1: We can’t. It’s in his contract the film gets a theatrical release. Aren’t people doing the whole iTunes release prior to theatrical release thing these days? How’s that working?

P2: No clue.

P1: Well, let’s try it. The 3D looks terrible, anyway.

P2: Always has.

P1: Maybe they’ll pay for it anyway…

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (not US3D) went on to make $369,179 worldwide. It was released in three theaters in the U.S. for three weeks. These are not hypothetical stories. These are hard facts.

Hopefully Director Joe got more than back end points. He deserved it. After all, trying should count for something.


Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Blu-ray)


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