The French are known for their fascination with spy movies such as ‘OSS 117’ and ‘Spy Game.’ ‘The Last Mercenary’ is the latest flick out of their spy vault though it’s coupled with plenty of comedy. The film was directed by David Charhon from a screenplay he wrote in collaboration with Ismael Sy Savane and premiered on Netflix on July 30. This action-comedy stars the legendary action star Jean-Claude Van Damme with supporting roles being taken by Alban Ivanov, Assa Sylla, and Samir Decazza.
‘The Last Mercenary’ has equal measures of comedy and action that happen at supersonic speed. The narrative unfolds in three different perspectives all heading towards each other in different ways. First, there is a mercenary who expertly evades those trying to track him as he tries to reconnect with a son he abandoned, then a government agency as they question suspects and are determined to keep a government operation from the past named Cup-And-Ball hidden and a Scarface obsessed son of a mob boss who messes up his way through a drug drop.
The feature tells the intriguing story of a mysterious former secret agent turned mercenary called Richard Brumere or if you like ‘The Mist’ which is played by Van Damme. He acquired this name because he has the tendency to appear and disappear into thin air. After the government dropped him when a mission went south in the African country of Chad in the 1990s, Brumere literally varnished from the face of the earth. Before he laid low though, he made a deal with the government to grant his son Archibald a life immunity and a monthly allowance. However, the legend is forced to re-emerge in France after his estranged son is falsely accused of arms and drug trafficking by the government following a blunder by an overzealous bureaucrat and a mafia operation.
With the safety of his son on the line, his desire to introduce himself, and in an effort to clear his child’s name, ‘The Mist’ is now back in action. A series of fascinating events, badass kickboxing scenarios, and sputters of comedy ensue and finally, Archie gets his identity back and the criminals behind the whole identity theft situation and shady illegal operations are brought to book by the acclaimed hero and his minions.
When the movie starts, the scene is beautiful, a one-man rescue mission with Van damme doing his iconic split hanging between two walls, his stealth entry, the mastery of his butt-kicking skills, his charisma as he easily beats his opponents in a single swoop draws the audience into the movie. This is really nostalgic especially to great fans of the Muscles from Brussels. Another iconic scene that brings back lingering memories is the pub scene where Jean Claude is killing it on the dance floor before making an acquaintance with a former colleague from his hay days Marguritte a role by French beauty Miou Miou. He breaks some moves from his ‘Kickboxer’ movie, a dance he invented, it might not earn a place among the best but it sure is unique and memorable and he seems to always be having fun whenever he does it.
The Music is used superbly, goes higher and faster during the action scenes to pump up the adrenaline and gets mellow whenever intense emotions are involved. The movie also touches on the themes of sacrifice. Having to choose between family and one’s duty to their country. Also, the real issue of the fear of being a bad parent to one’s children. Richard Brumere would rather delegate the role of a father to a friend and watch his family from a distance as he didn’t think he would set a good example for his son.
The storyline is quite okay. Though it’s sort of basic without any wow factors, some inconsistent storylines, and some off-color jokes that don’t land so well, it still works though thanks to the charisma and charm of the lead. One aspect however that should amaze audiences is the fact that one should apparently be amused by Jean Claude’s ability to sound like other people without using any software which honestly isn’t that impressive. It’s just weird hearing JCVD not sound like himself as his voice and accent is a character in itself which adds a certain flavor to whatever role he plays.
A memorable scene which is classic Van Damme has got to be when he breaks his son Archie out of police custody. The boy doesn’t know how to drive and a team of delinquents out to kill them both is hot on their tail. So Brumere takes the steering wheel from the passage side while Archie plays with the brake and gas pedals. Despite all the shooting and his son’s screams as they get away, Van Damme manages to keep his classic calm easy looking face, no pressure at all, no panic, just smooth calculated moves.
When it comes to the editing, if one has been an avid fan of the Belgian star, they would notice that this flick has more jump cuts per sequence compared to Van Damme’s past movies, especially in the action scenes. Though he still looks pretty good and moves quite well, the star is 60 years old, and it makes sense that there would be more editing and may be use of a stunts team compared to his hay days.
All in all, ‘The Last Mercenary’ is a great love letter to Jean Claude Van Damme and his legacy presented in the most hilarious way, and in the movie, the action star is both an intimidating mercenary as well as a doting father. It’s basically Van Damme doing everything fans love about him for and embracing bizarre parts of action-comedy such as switching costumes from pool boy Jean-Claude to Pornstache Jean Claude to blonde wig Jean Claude among others which are an absolute delight to watch.
‘The Last Mercenary’ is now available for streaming on Netflix.