Directed by: Zale Dalen
Starring: Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Wolf Larson, Laurie Holden, Anthony De Longis, Real Andrews, and Michael Blanks
Warbeck (Larson) and his sidekick Damian (De Longis of CIA II, 1993 fame) run the Virtual Arts Academy, an institution of “higher learning” that teaches its students Martial Arts mixed with heavy doses of Virtual Reality (or “VR”, as seemingly countless 90’s movies and TV shows insisted would be the future). However, as awesome as this place seems, something fishy is going on there, and Federal Agent Justin Vanier (Blanks) is assigned to check it out. So he goes undercover and enrolls as a student. As it turns out, the maniacal Warbeck is training high-tech assassins to go on missions to kill people, including witnesses for potential trials. Along with Eric (Merhi) and Vicki (Holden), Justin must bring down Warbeck’s sinister organization. But first he must figure out the differences between “virtual” and “reality” in this confusing new world.
Like we always used to say about the chain of stores Xpect Discounts, you can expect discounts, but you might not necessarily get any. However, after watching the absurd opening sequence to Expect No Mercy, you realize you are in for a ridiculous romp with plenty of 90’s nostalgia thanks to the plentiful computer graphics. Following Talons of the Eagle (1992) and TC 2000 (1993), Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi team up once again. They must really get along well. Blanks has some funny catch phrases (and funny hair, and funny outfits), and Merhi is just mush-mouthed and incomprehensible.
Take the scene where Justin (i.e., Billy) is going to enter the VR school for the first time. He’s wearing a baseball cap and jacket. Right before walking in, he turns his hat around backwards, and unzips his jacket, exposing a lot of chest because he’s not wearing a shirt underneath. WHY? Did he think this would make him “fit in” at the school? Presumably Warbeck saw this and thus made him his mortal enemy. It would certainly explain their fight scene where for no comprehensible reason, after fighting for a good ten minutes, they then tear each other’s shirts off. Hmmmm...As far as Merhi, one of the scariest things in a non-horror movie is the disembodied Merhi head. You might scream.
As far as the other baddies, we have Damian, who wears a whip as some sort of tie, Real Andrews of Last Man Standing (1987) and Red Scorpion 2 (1994) fame, who would appear with Blanks the next year in Balance of Power (1996), Michael Blanks as Spyder, who is Billy’s brother and appeared in Ring of Steel (1994) and the fascinatingly-named Lazar Rockwood, who looks exactly like Billy Drago. We’re not entirely satisfied that it’s NOT Billy Drago. So the supporting cast is solid, and along with plenty of fights and blow-ups, Expect No Mercy provides the action and (presumably) unintentional comedy that makes for good entertainment.
It has a memorable score by Varouje Hagopian, and even funny (presumably ADR?) sounds from the fighters, as if the filmmakers thought the fights were too boring, so they felt adding some actors shouting “chaw!” “chaw!” would really liven things up. Unsurprisingly, the movie was shot in Ontario, Canada and has a very Canadian feel (again, not a bad thing, just an observation).
For 90’s action silliness, Expect No Mercy is a solid choice.
Also check out reviews from our buddies: DTVC and Lost Video Archive!
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
More 90s nostalgia! Keep it coming!
Yeah I remember when it seemed every early 90s film or TV show was about VR. "Yeah, Virtual Reality. It's right around the corner. Five years time we'll all be wearing massive helmets." Hahahaha!
This is a prime example. Such a funny movie (as most Merhi flicks are). I've got this at home on a low budget film boxset. Will give it another spin tonight.
Did you know they actually made a Mortal Kombat rip-off based on this film. Sadly, I don't think you could play as Billy Blanks:-
It would be weird to see Billy Blank's ripping someone's spine out of their body...or for an equal amount of brutality you can just play as Jalal Merhi.
Another great review Ty. I got this one on a Japanese subtitled VHS transferred to a DVD-R.
Lazar Rockwood has a bigger role as the villian Salazar in Fearless Tiger (AKA: Black Pearls), Jalal Merhi's first film.
Yes, this is a special one, if only they had gotten Cynthia Rothrock in there somehow. But I digress, Toronto and Billy Blanks in a mesh shirt is really more than I could reasonably have expected anyway. Finest kind!
Ryan: Thanks! Always wanted to see Fearless Tiger...that is cool that Rockwood has a nice role in it.
The Goodkind: If Rothrock was in this, this would have been a 90s gem! Haha about the mesh shirts. Classic 90s!
Yeah this was pretty fun and would make a good double-bill with either Expect To Die or TC 2000.
Totally agree. Any time you can do a Billy Blanks double feature, you know you are going to have fun.
great review. love this flick: absurd concept (and VR "special effects") but great action. I miss Billy Blanks. Jalal Merhi, not so much...
You're right, Blanks should make a comeback...Jalal should not...Haha.
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