Sunday, March 29, 2020

Self-Quarantine Viewing: The Mercenary

It is a terrible idea to leave a soldier-for-hire like Maxx for dead. His former comrades-in-arms do it twice. They are fortunate the first time, because a brave parish priest convinces the human weapon to renounce violence, but the bad guys are perversely determined to keep poking the bear. Sooner or later, Maxx is bound to start doing what he does best in Jesse V. Johnson’s The Mercenary, which is now available on DVD and VOD.

Eventually, the Islamist outrage industry will start protesting this film, because the opening action sequence features Maxx liquidating dozens of terrorists in a Mosque, which doesn’t seem to trouble the film in the least. It certainly shouldn’t trouble viewers either, but the world is insane. Things get a bit dicey on the next gig their team-leader LeClerc accepts from a Latin American drug cartel. When one of his colleagues tries to have his way with a village woman, Maxx intervenes, but almost gets killed for his efforts.

Kindly Father Elias nurses Maxx back to health and guides him back to the path of the righteous. Unfortunately, LeClerc and his mercs have taken over the local drug trade. Periodically, they abduct villagers to labor in their meth factories. At first, Maxx merely trains the villagers in self-defense, but when LeClerc learns he is still alive, all bets are off.

So, any questions? Nobody is likely to confuse The Mercenary with art cinema, but it is definitely a competent, self-aware direct-to-DVD action movie. Johnson is one of the best in the business at staging action on-screen (see for instance: Avengement, Debt Collector, and Accident Man). Former French Foreign Legion paratrooper Dominiquie Vandenberg does not have the star power of Johnson’s frequent protag, Scott Adkins, but as a former competitor in Thailand’s “Iron Circles,” he clearly has the skills, the physicality, and the street cred for a bad cat like Maxx. After watching The Mercenary, we’re frankly keen to see more of him.

Louis Mandylor also come to play, yelling, growling, and chewing the scenery with villainous relish as LeClerc. The late, great character actor Carmen Argenziano (who recurred on CSI: NY and Stargate SG-1) is terrific as Father Elias, making him humane and virtuous, but also realistically human. Indeed, Father Elias might be the most sympathetic, true-to-life depiction of a Catholic priest seen in film over the last two or three years.

Action and Catholic faith—what more could you ask from a film? Sure, maybe stronger characterization and stuff like that. Still, you have to admit Johnson and Vandenberg know what they are doing and get the job done. Recommended for fans of the old school Cannon action aesthetic, The Mercenary is now available on DVD and VOD.