As a lifelong fan, and a kid who grew up practicing my Jean-Claude Van Damme kicks, I was excited for the news of “The Last Mercenary” over on Netflix. Van Damme is a legend in the action genre, and it’s been a shame he hasn’t had more opportunities. Liam Neeson seems to get a couple large releases a year and other aging stars like Bruce Willis are in six to seven direct-to-video romps a year. Yet getting Van Damme’s presence onscreen these days are hard to come by. I sat down for “The Last Mercenary” with excitement and while I didn’t hate this flick, I didn’t love it either. Despite thinking Van Damme was the best piece overall.
This is a French action-comedy, and it has its spots of humor. However not all the laughs hit. I watched with subtitles and sure some of the humor could have been lost in translation but regardless I did hope for something a bit more serious in tone. I did enjoy the jovial, action-filled atmosphere of it all, and I felt Van Damme was more than capable in this area. But it was a bit too silly at times for my taste. It didn’t take me out of the film at all, but it did undercut some of the intensity of the overarching plot-lines. Van Damme is tasked with protecting his estranged son and it delivers plenty of mayhem and a charming collection of fight-sequences. So, the infusion of almost cartoonish humor in places was mildly distracting. At least for my taste.
On the other hand, if you want to see a different version of Van Damme. One that shows flashes of his old action persona, while also showing off a sense-of-humor, as well as spots of emotional endearment, then you will have some fun with this movie. If you are looking for something more traditional to his American actioner’s from the 90’s then you may be let down. I will admit I wanted more out of this one. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I loved what Van Damme brought to the film. He’s dancing. He’s in many comical disguises. He’s kicking ass, being a father, and these sections for me are where this film thrived. I also had some fun with the jovial atmosphere it created. The international locations and production-design do create a polish film with plenty of visual appeal as well that I appreciated.
But it was hard to tell if this movie was taking itself seriously or parodying the genre. Again, some of the sense-of-humor, and the tone overall could have been lost in translation. So, I would say if you are a fan of Van Damme, or have seen the trailer and it has your curiosity, that it is worth a shot to see if it’s to your taste. Regardless, Van Damme was awesome and certainly the best thing going for this film as he should’ve been. He shows his comedic chops, he shows he still has his kicks, his charm, and plenty of gas in the tank for many more years to come. So, let’s hope this is a start to the resurgence of Van Damme back in the movies.
Anthony J Digioia II - SilverScreen Analysis © All Rights Reserved