Run Time: 91 Mins
What to Expect: A no-frills action movie that rivals some of the best films produced by the Cannon Group in the 80s.
Jesse V. Johnson, director of numerous Scott Atkins movies, including last year’s gripping, Avengement (2019), delivers the simple but effective action thriller, The Mercenary.
The first twenty minutes of The Mercenary is a series of successive action scenes showing a private mercenary company’s operations in Central Africa and Iraq. The mercenaries battle African guerrillas and armed terrorists. The company’s leader is Leclerc (Louis Mandylor), and his second in command is Maxx (Dominique Vandenberg), a former French Foreign Legion soldier.
Things turn sour in Colombia. After a successful mission against cocaine manufacturers in the jungle, one of Leclerc’s mercenaries’ attempts to rape a young girl involved in drug production. Maxx steps in to save her and fight off the rapist. While the two men continue to tussle, the young girl takes a grenade off one of the men, releases the lever, and throws it, causing an explosion. In the chaos, Maxx is presumed dead by his colleagues and is left behind.
Disorientated and in excruciating pain, Maxx stumbles upon a rural church nearby, where he is given medical attention and cared for by Father Elias (Carmen Argenziano).
As Maxx recovers from his injuries, Father Elias attempts to teach him about the non-violent way of life. Maxx tries to follow the Priest’s teachings. Nonetheless, trouble comes his way, when two mercenaries come to the church to kidnap a parishioner and coerce her into making cocaine. In defiance of Father Elias’ non-violence message, Maxx uses his martial arts skills to give the men a sound beating. The thugs scurry back to town, and report to Leclerc’s company, still active in Colombia, about what happened.
When Leclerc figures out that his former comrade is still alive, he urges him to rejoin his company. However, since Maxx no longer wants to be a killer for hire, the stage is set for a brutal confrontation. Leclerc will not let Maxx leave peacefully.
As the hero, Maxx, Dominique Vandenberg, a real-life former French Foreign Legion paratrooper, brings a sense of authenticity to the movie and radiates with simmering intensity.
A highlight of the movie is the variety of firearms on display. I liked the use of the gas grenade launcher, which looked similar to the one employed by Christopher Walken in the underrated, Dogs of War (1981). I also enjoyed the variety of villain deaths, which included: evisceration, disemboweling, and stabbing. The fight choreography by Malay Kim is excellent as well; all fights can be seen with clarity and are not over-edited in any way.
With this movie, Jesse V. Johnson has superseded Roel Reine (Death Race 2, Dead in Tombstone) and cemented his place as the best action director working in the video-on-demand market. A solid recommendation.