Directed by: Paris Leonti
Produced by: John Adams
Screenplay by: Paris Leonti
Starring: Billy Zane
Music by: Haim Frank Ilfman
Cinematography by: Philip Robertson
Editing by: Anthony Willis
Studio(s): ABC Films
Angry Badger Pictures
Distributed by: Kaleidoscope
Release date(s): May, 2011 (Ibiza Film Festival)
January 27, 2012 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 90 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Production budget: $1 million (estimated)
Box office revenue: (Unavailable)
Massively overhyped and grossly overrated, it's The Thin White Dude's Reviews, with your host, here's The Thin White Dude! Once again, I gab on about how busy I am reviewing movies, blah blah blah, and how there's going to be loads more activity when in fact I know in my heart of hearts, that I will be a lazy mothercanucker and do sweet f-a! Regardless, I have been procuring a log of movies to review, and starting with this one, I'll review Silence, an Irish film that I saw at a screening of the QFT's Green Screen Festival, Taken 2, Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Project X, which I will follow with a review for the month of October. Also, I have copies of Dead Head, Rampart, Chronicle, Iron Sky and I managed to find a nice cheap copy of Takashi Miike's latest, Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai, so, while I try and maintain a pretence of objectivity while reviewing these films, you lot keep your eyes posted!
Right, so today's movie is Mercenaries, another one of my endeavours into the cheap DVD territory. Apparently the film received a limited UK release on January 27th earlier this year, but premiering on DVD less than two months later on March 5th would lead me to believe that the distributors probably just put it in the cinema for a few days, just so it could qualify for a festival run and get a few reviews for publicity sake. Also, the fact that it's appearing in my local supermarket for £5 would lead me further down the path of my distribution theory, which is neither hear nor there in relation to discussing the film's plot synopsis. Story follows a group of mercenaries (surprise, surprise!), led by ex-S.A.S. serviceman Andy Marlow (Robert Fucilla), who have been recruited 'off-the-record' by US military personnel/UN peacekeeper Colonel Torida (Billy Zane), on behalf of the US government, to rescue the American ambassador and his aide from nasty Balkan revolutionary/terrorist forces, led by Olodan Gragovic (Anthony Byrne). You get the point? Let's get on with the review then!
Look, I'll just shoot straight from the hip and say that there really isn't that much good about the film. Robert Fucilla's performance is strong enough in the lead role. He doesn't get much to play around with, but he does his earnest with it. Uniformly, it's well-enough shot, even if you can tell that they are working around the low-budget and doing their best to make it look like a bigger budgeted film. Furthermore, although it's just designed around the action scenes, these scenes are choreographed well-enough that you do pay attention to them when they're going on. If I sound like I'm trying to find things, it's because I am! It's not an outright bad movie in the way Rock Of Ages or Jack And Jill is, it at least has a relative degree of consistency throughout. I suppose director Paris Leonti could be thanked for that at least.
However, for Leonti it is not to be all compliments, as he also wrote one of the year's worst screenplays. It's not like there are scenes that are written badly in a ludicrous sense, but it is scribed in an incredibly lazy way that follows like someone reading from a screenwriting manual as they are going along. That's not to slag screenwriting manuals, anything by Syd Field is a great, informative wealth of knowledge, but rules are made to be broken and worked around. Here, uniformity and complicity to the dullard, tried-and-tested methods are the name of the game. It reads like an action-film cliche checklist: protagonist with a dark past that at an appropriate will reveal his secret, check, nasty left-wing revolutionaries, check, thinly-vieled legal loopholes that challenge the idea of a peaceful United Nations and assert American imperialism, check, and worst of all, straight from the Sylvester Stallone book, the noble peasants. Yes, once again, those scruffy ragamuffins that have suffered such atrocities who seem strangely more adept at handling guns than the actors playing military servicemen, they're back. I'm sick of this collective scourge of 'The Noble Peasants' (who will be referred as such from now on: they are that much of a cliche!) popping up in movies all the time! We'll get the crap out of the way quick, I didn't like the music. It was once again a case of my Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra popping up, doing their schtick, and completely devaluing any legitimacy that the film's more 'emotional' scenes try to achieve. Moving swiftly on, it is also a terribly edited picture, in more ways than one. For instance, the muzzle flashes from the guns in the film look like a retrograde, primitive form of CG-animation, and take away any pretence of danger that these weapons might have. Also, the sound editing, while synchronous with the visual action, does not fit what is going on. Aurally, some of the foley effects in particular sound exaggerated and you can tell there is no effort being made when the majority of them you can identify from different sources and better movies. As far as cutting is concerned, Anthony Willis and Iain Mitchel, two heads without good sense between them, decide to let certain scenes/shots last too long, and often cut at the wrong moments, and the film would become farcical and amusing were it not so dull. When Billy Zane steps out a car, and the film cuts to give him a brief hero shot so that it can be established that "Hey, it's Billy Zane!," I knew I was in for a long haul.
These things being said, and don't get me wrong here, Mercenaries is a rubbish film, but it is one of those movies in which there is a lot wrong with it, but that it is done rather consistently, that you stop really caring too much about how bad it is and go with it. If you'll notice, I haven't attacked the actors, not because they aren't bad either, but because I see the poor sods as mere pawns in this ugly chessboard. I'm trying to write this in a way so no fan forum misrepresents how I feel and tries to quote me on this (it has been done, believe me!), but it is such a uniformly bad movie that follows the numbers so much that, instead of being like Jack And Jill and Rock Of Ages, the two movies this year that have really made me mad, I just ignore it for the dullard that it is.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 2.9/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Autopilot (lots of Uni work, I'm being a hermit aside from set-dancing and cinema trips this month!)
P.S. The 2.9 rating is another private joke at the expense of Danny Dyer. Major brownie points if you are able to figure out the gag! (Hint: not the size in inches of his AHEM! or the Stanley Knife he wrote his articles with in Zoo magazine. Man, that was a dig!)