A bewigged Billy Zane fails to inspire in this lacklustre and tedious action thriller.
Soldiers of fortune hired to go behind enemy lines and rescue a US ambassador come up against a military-dictator-in-waiting and his minions. Ignoring international protocol and any sense of realism, the UN sends in mercenaries to clean house and save the day.
Paris Leonti’s second feature is derivative and wholly uninspired. Audiences have seen this kind of movie a million times before and familiarity breeds contempt when executed this poorly.
Though its origins lie in the multitude of exploitation films from the '70s and '80s (think The Wild Geese minus the nostalgic charm and star factor), Mercenaries seems closer in spirit to Ross Kemp’s Ultimate Force, complete with fawning attitude to the military. The screenplay and characterisation are about as complex and nuanced as your average FPS. In fact, video games tend to offer better value than this slice of hokum parading cliché after cliché in the name of entertainment.
Weak production values also make actors (including Downton Abbey's Rob James-Collier) running around misc woodland – and no doubt living out misguided boyhood fantasies of 'being in the shit' – look pretty crummy. Here is a movie that asks us to care about a gang of men whose name suggests they don’t care about anything but money and maybe getting a kick out of murder.
The majority of the budget clearly went on securing Billy Zane’s presence (as if that ever lent credibility to a picture), and it's no surprise to see him deliver a pay cheque performance. His Colonel Torida (complete with unconvincing wig) pops up now and again to look concerned and bark orders. That’s it. Not exactly much bang for your buck.
Mercenaries is fine Friday night, post-pub DVD viewing, where a few suds may persuade you to forgive lacklustre plotting and tedious performances. On the big screen, however, with 2D characters rampaging through cheap terrain and shooting at nameless Balkan stereotypes, it simply doesn't hold up.
A low-budget action thriller starring Billy Zane? Anticipation barely even comes into it.
Less A-Team and more Z-Team.
Like watching splattered paint balls dry.