If you want to know the quality deep within Steven Seagals Mercenary For Justice, there is a line in the film that goes, “Yeah, that’s it for you poophole”, and in a weird sort of way, that sums up the film perfectly.
When mercenary John Seeger (Steven Seagal) is blackmailed into leading a perilous rescue attempt to free a billionaire’s kidnapped son in South Africa, he goes along with the mission. But when Seeger finds out that he’s been double-crossed, the gloves come off – and now there’s going to be hell to pay. Also starring Luke Goss and Michael Kenneth Williams.
The kidnapping scene is on another level of daftness, first played with some lovely orchestral music; we see how effortlessly this group get into the French Ambassadors compound. Seems okay so far, right? Well, once the group actually get into the compound, it all falls on its ass as they point guns at servants who do not utter a sound and nonchalantly as possible raise their hands and go where they need to. If it wasn’t played out so seriously, you would think it was a comedy, then we get to a scene where a clueless guards neck is broken in the gentlest of ways. There is even some doubt about whether or not he is actually touched, such as the limited movement that our victim turns his head.
That said, when we have some terrible moments like this, the following scene where an all-out battle is going on is full of good action. Not only that, there was apparent expense put into this part as bombs go off in the background. All so we can introduce ourselves to John Seeger. Though all of that goodwill is taken away when Maxine (Jacqueline Lord) can wander through the gun battle to talk (and have a long enough conversation) with Seeger as shots are being fired at them. This is the apparent frustration with this film, we can see there is good work to create the action scenes, yet small moments try their very best to take you out of the film for no real reason.
Mercenary For Justice also never exceeds that opening, with the rest of the film playing out as boringly and lifeless as possible. All told with fantastically bad ADR. This confusingly and needlessly convoluted story tries to play it free with its storytelling. Weaving in many double-crosses and bait and switches, we are left with a film that is simply trying far too hard for the quality held within.
I can’t be too sure when this started with Seagal films, but the light just coming over the eyes and darkness all around when inside. Nevermore so is this clear than when it happens when characters are in an airplane, it causes it to stand out like a sore thumb, and there is just no logical reason for it. If someone has the answer to this query, it would be great, so I don’t have to delve into older Seagal films… This lighting technique even happens in a restaurant, and as Chapell is playing the piano… Why!?!?
Performance-wise, Seagal is solid (remember this is a 15-year-old film), and it seems as if he actually cares enough about the project to remain interested. Others such as Roger Guenveur Smith as Chapel seem to have been told at one point that he was underplaying his character and has taken it so personally that he seems intent in imploding the entire film. There was no real need for him and for Luke Goss’s Gresham to be the foe for Seagal. He offers nothing for the film other than a campy whispering weirdness that you wonder what he is doing. There was hope that when he eventually meets his demise, it would be from a bucket falling from a great height. But no, there is no fun or cleverness there.
A random film that, in truth, feels like two stories welded into one. Mercenary For Justice is not wholly terrible; there just isn’t much to love about it. A shame, really.
Signature Entertainment presents Mercenary For Justice on Digital Platforms 5th April and on Amazon Prime Video 16th April.
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