Directed by: Christopher Ray
Starring: Zoe Bell, Brigitte Nielsen, Tim Abell, Vivica A. Fox, Kristanna Loken, Nicole Bilderback, and Cynthia Rothrock
When the President’s daughter travels to Kazakhstan and then gets kidnapped by the evil Ulrika (Nielsen) and her henchman Gregori (Abell), a government agent named Mona (Rothrock) does the only logical thing - she assembles a team of female prisoners (with pasts appropriate to this task, of course). Led by Cassandra Clay (Bell), the other team members include Raven (Fox), Kat (Loken), and Mei-Lin (Bilderback). Armed to the teeth and with nothing to lose, the ladies embark on the deadly mission, facing everything from sexism to RPG’s along the way. Will they come out victorious? Will they rescue the President’s daughter? What will happen to the baddies when they face the MERCENARIES?
In the grand tradition of Hell Squad (1986), Sweet Justice (1992), and Mankillers (1987), Mercenaries is the latest in the lineage of low-budget DTV “assemble a female team” movies. While the brief seems to have been “create a DTV, all-female Expendables”, the end result is more in line with the three films mentioned above. Not that that’s such a bad thing, of course. But Mercenaries is just a bit too silly for its own good. If they could have dialed down some of the more inane and/or sophomoric elements just a tad, and taken the whole project slightly more seriously, we might have more of a winner here.
Top marks go to our new hero Zoe Bell, arguably the best part of the movie. While the other Mercenaries were off experiencing the time-honored Prerequisite Torture, Bell goes off on her own, and we appreciated that. We hope to see more of her in front of the camera (for those who don’t know, she’s an experienced stuntwoman). Overall, though, it seems the filmmakers were going for a bit of a lark - a reasonably pleasant piece of entertainment you don’t have to think about too hard (or at all). But where’s the line between that and something that’s just really dumb? Mercenaries certainly defines that line.
Sure, it has some of those needless, modern-day editing tricks, and the production values are very cheap-looking (as befitting of The Asylum production company), and the green screen/CGI quotient is unhealthy, but on the brighter side it has some classic 80’s/90’s style clichés - the wacky transportation driver, “It’s an election year”, and some un-PC dialogue (mostly centered around Mei-Lin). The comic-booky vibe is sledgehammered in with some interstitial cuts to comic book frames, an editing device pretty much universally frowned-upon when it came to that new cut of The Warriors (1979). Why Mercenaries chose to do it remains an open question.
There is plenty of groan-inducing dialogue as well, and top fan favorite Cynthia Rothrock has only one, all-too-brief fight scene. All the ladies, generally speaking, acquit themselves well, which is why we wished the overall product had more weight and heft to it, instead of being the aforementioned lark. It’s easy viewing, to be sure, and we like the tradition it falls in, so we’re willing to cut it some slack. But the silliness/dumbness factor reaches daffy proportions, so it’s kind of a wash.
In the end, Mercenaries is a well-meaning trifle, buoyed by Zoe Bell and her cohorts. We personally would have liked some more grit, however.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty