Like most action stars toiling in the overcrowded direct-to-vid vineyards, Olivier Gruner is at the mercy of his script choices. MERCENARY offers only stereotypical characters, tiresomely familiar situations, and a pointless series of anticlimaxes padding its second half. The film
premiered on HBO and was released to home video shortly thereafter.
At a party thrown by billionaire Jonas Ambler (John Ritter), a controversial writer, a team of paid assassins headed by Phoenix (Martin Kove) attacks and kills several people, including Ambler's wife. On the advice of his security chief Cochran (Ed Lauter) and financial advisor Alan Bailey
(Michael Zelniker), Ambler decides to seek and destroy Phoenix personally--with the aid of a mercenary. Capt. Carl "Hawk" May (Olivier Gruner) accepts the assignment only because he needs Ambler's clout to get his mentor McClean (Robert Culp) freed after he is falsely arrested on drug charges.
After doing his best to train the amateur Ambler, Hawk stages an assault on Phoenix's Kurdish fortress. Also abroad are Cochran, Bailey, and McClean, providing backup for Hawk. They are captured when Phoenix is tipped off to their plan. Taken to Phoenix's dungeon, Ambler learns that he was the
real target of the attack upon his mansion--an attack planned by Cochran and Bailey, who have been embezzling from him. Hawk escapes and bests Phoenix in brutal martial arts combat. He then rescues Ambler from a hungry killer hound and from Phoenix's greedy mercenaries. Cochran offers to reward
Hawk if he helps kill Ambler, in exchange for keeping McClean alive. Hawk plays along with Ambler's treacherous employees. Surprising them, Ambler stabs Cochran to death; Hawk fatally shoots a cornered Bailey just as he's about to kill Ambler. McClean, Ambler, and Hawk make it safely back to
The script of MERCENARY actively contrives ways to jettison suspense. It does little to fool viewers about the obvious guilt of Ambler's backstabbing associates. In fact, the most exciting segment of this movie, a character-establishing introductory passage in which Hawk single-handedly
annihilates a cantina full of kidnappers, has nothing to do with the key plot line. Slogging along, the movie spends an eternity on the semicomical training of businessman-turned-soldier-of-fortune Ambler, which could have been accomplished with a two-minute montage. Instead, MERCENARY wastes more
time and resources on Hawk and Ambler's sundry escape attempts after Phoenix has been eliminated instead of cutting to the confrontation with Cochran and Bailey. Containing more explosive set-pieces than martial-arts set-tos (Gruner's specialty), this maladroitly directed action opus contents
itself to run in place. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: Like most action stars toiling in the overcrowded direct-to-vid vineyards, Olivier Gruner is at the mercy of his script choices. MERCENARY offers only stereotypical characters, tiresomely familiar situations, and a pointless series of anticlimaxes padding… (more)