Tuesday, 24 February 2015
How I Hired Mercanaries From the Asylum
For a while I've been seeing this action film Mercenaries pop up on Netflix. The reviews weren't great and finding out it was made by The Asylum (who you may remember as one of the leading companies in the production of modern b-movies). However, it sounded like my kind of action film, at least on paper. After all, it was all about a group of tough women and female bonding in roles that would in any other film have been played by men. That pretty much sums up all but one of my screenplays (and that was only because it was an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness), so this sounded like it would be right up my alley. If nothing else I could learn a thing or two about how not to write the strong female characters in my scripts. After one embarrassing incident in which I accidentally confused it with another b-movie that coincidentally had the same title (that's a story for another time), I finally managed to see it. It wasn't great, but it was entertaining in the usual b-movie kind of way.
The President's Daughter Elise (Tiffany Panhilason) is touring... somewhere dangerous. They never really make it clear where. Unfortunately, she has been assigned the worst secret servicemen the President has to offer. Her car is ambushed by a female warlord named Ulrika (Brigitte Nelson, doing a bad Tilda Swinton impression), the secret servicemen are quickly killed, and she is easily captured. Enter Mona (Cynthia Rothrock), a government person who looks more like an aging rock star than a politician, who concludes that the only logical solution is to hire a team of female convicts. She finds four that she concludes are bad enough dudettes to save the President's daughter, and sends them into the field.
As you can expect, Mercenaries has all the trademarks of a typical b-movie. We have the ridiculous plot, the over-the-top situations, the plot holes, the cheesy special effects, the contrived situations, questionable acting, the list goes on. I didn't exactly go in with the highest expectations. However, the one thing it promises, action girls, it does manage to deliver. I will give it credit for including a female villain, something that you don't often see in action films, even if her motives aren't very well explained beyond being a power-hungry dictator who for some reason endorses the oppression of women under her rule (something about using them to keep the men under control, it's not entirely clear).
The four leads aren't exactly Sigourney Weaver, Angelina Jolie, Ming-Na Wen, and Zoe Saldana (which would itself be an awesome combination), but as far as b-movie standards go they do an okay job. The most enjoyable of the lot would have to be Nicole Biderback as Mei-Lin Fong, the team's explosives expert. Her acting is hardly perfect, but she seems to have so much fun with her character it's hard for her not to steal the show whenever she's on screen. The idea of making one of the characters a female soldier is also a nice touch, and they do manage to give her a reasonably clear backstory. Unfortunately, the other two, while appropriately tough, are severely underdeveloped.
The action is solid... mostly, provided you don't go in with high expectations. There are plenty of cheesy effects, especially towards the end where we get some ridiculous explosions which make less sense than a Michael Bay film and a terrible CGI airplane. The makeup job isn't all that great either. The blood is hilariously unconvincing, and the leading actresses can act somewhat like they are wounded, but have trouble doing so consistently. They'll go back and forth between actually acting like they've been hit to being completely oblivious to the obvious bullet wounds sometimes in the same scene.
While Mercenaries succeeds in delivering on the tough women it promises, its mostly just a b-movie. Admittedly it can be entertaining and at times humorous provided you go in with low expectations, but that's really all it is. That said, I do think it has some good ideas, and the basic premise would be worth revisiting in a future production, perhaps in a mainstream film with a more competent director in charge and a more solid cast. Still, if you need an hour and half to kill and you want something that doesn't require too much thinking, Mercenaries might just be the film for you.