Review by Sean Boelman
After hitting a certain age, most action stars reach a pbase in their career where they are predominantly making self-referential action comedies, and Jean-Claude Van Damme has already been there for a while now. His new film, The Last Mercenary, is fun enough when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, although the plot is frustratingly derivative.
The movie tells the story of a retired secret agent who must return to France when a case of mistaken identity results in his son being pursued by the government and dangerous criminals. It’s the type of convoluted espionage plot that only exists to set up some action sequences and comedic situations, and it succeeds in both of those regards.
However, with the film clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes after credits, the movie is just too long. Everything that isn’t an action sequence or comedy bit drags by, and for some reason, the writers felt the need to incorporate a lot of exposition, as if a majority of viewers would even care if the plot for a Van Damme action-comedy is remotely sensible.
It’s a shame, because a lot of the action sequences here are genuinely enjoyable to watch. A scene early on in the film which introduces us to JCVD’s character and his unique skill set shows the potential this has as a throwback. And a comedic car chase is one of the best of its type in recent memory.
Director David Charhon shoots the movie in a way that is somewhat haphazard. Although the action choreography is strong and the stunt performers are solid, the camera is positioned in a way that makes it obviously look fake. And like a majority of modern action films, the editing is extremely aggressive.
Something that would have helped this movie to be a bit more memorable would have been more distinctive characters. Van Damme is playing a role that is poking fun at the characters that put him in the spotlight to begin with, but he’s done that type of thing before. And all of the supporting characters are basically straight archetypes.
As expected, Van Damme does a lot of the heavy lifting for the cast here. After all, this is an action movie starring him that is a throwback to the type of films that made him, so it’s only fitting that everyone else in the movie works around him. That said, the chemistry he has with Samir Decazza, who plays his son, is notable.
The Last Mercenary is a pretty decent action-comedy, but it would have been a lot better had some of the fluff been cut. Still, for those looking for mindless entertainment, this Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle delivers.
The Last Mercenary is now streaming on Netflix.