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Mercenary Fighters

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    Ian Jane
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  • Mercenary Fighters



    Released by: MGM Limited Edition Collection

    Released on: December 6, 2011.

    Director: Riki Shelach Nissimoff

    Cast: Peter Fonda, Jeb Brown, Ron O'Neal

    Year: 1988

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    This 1988 Cannon Films/Golan-Globus production stars Peter Fonda as an American Vietnam veteran named Virelli (in a role originally offered to Richard Kiel!) who gathers up a few other soldiers of fortune - DJ (Reb Brown), Cliff (Ron O'Neal) and Wilson (James Mitchum, and yes he is related to Robert, he's his oldest son and it shows) among others - to head to Africa where they've been hired by a Colonel Kjemba (Robert DoQui) to protect a dam that's going to be built. It seems that there's some unrest in the area and those in charge of the fictional country want to make sure that the construction goes as planned. Why is there unrest? Because the people who live in the area where the dam will be built are none too keen on being flooded out of their homes


    Upon their arrival, it all starts to hit the fan fairly quickly as different warring factions each take their turn trying to kill off the mercenaries and blow up the dam and eventually DJ has a change of heart when he falls for a nurse named Warwick (Joanna Weinberg). When Virelli and the rest realize that they've been lied to and have essentially been played by the country's leadership as fools, they decide it's time to set things right.


    This is a ridiculously by the numbers film, almost remarkable for how unremarkable it really is. What stands out about it, however, is the Reb Brown factor. Those familiar with his fine work in the made for TV Captain America movies and in the mighty Space Mutiny will already be familiar with his acting style, but for those not up to speed it generally involves a lot of yelling, taking off his shirt, and punching and sometimes shooting things. In this movie he gets to do all of those things, sometimes at the same time. Peter Fonda just sort of coasts through this thing, not really trying very hard but looking cool in black sunglasses as he flies around in a helicopter overtop of impoverished tribal villages dropping grenades on the poor bastards below. Ron O'Neal is… well, shit, Ron O'Neal was Superfly so he gets a 'get out of jail free' card and he gets to fly the helicopter. Take that, whitey! At least Ron tries to make his character memorable, you can't really give anyone else in this movie credit for that.


    So yeah, Mercenary Fighters has got a pretty cool cast - you get the guy from Easy Rider, the guy from Captain America, Superfly and Robocop's boss and you get one of Robert Mitchum's kids all in the same movie - but is that enough? In and of itself, no, as the only ones who seem to be trying are Brown and O'Neal and Brown doesn't count because he's either yelling aimlessly or grinning brainlessly. Thankfully, this is a movie where a lot of stuff blows up, and that definitely helps to take a lot of the string out of the potential more or less wasted by the cast. At one point Brown goes Rambo, looping ammo into a belt fed machine gun and yelling while everything around him blows up - moments like this definitely matter to action movie fans, and this one does deliver plenty of awesome bits like that, the kind that put hair on your chest. It may not be a thinking man's movie and it may not do anything that we haven't seen before (though the plot is oddly reminiscent of Avatar so maybe it deserves more credit than it gets?) but it's got Reb Brown in it, lots of stuff blows up and violent in that awesome Cannon Films sort of way. Not one of the best of their catalogue but definitely a fun way to kill an hour and a half.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    MGM's anamorphic widescreen transfer looks good. The colors look nice, detail is better than you'd probably expect and the picture is clean and free of any serious print damage. Black levels are fine, there are no edge enhancement problems and the picture is pretty much free of compression artifacts as well. Some of the greens in a few of the jungle scenes look a little bit harsh but other than that, Mercenary Fighters looks fine.

    The only audio option available is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in English, there are no subtitles or dubbed options present. The mix sounds good, the score in particular has some good presence to it and if the gun shots don't always sound as powerful as maybe they could have, at least the dialogue is clean and easy to follow.

    Extras are limited to a static menu, chapter selection and the film's original trailer (which is admittedly a fun one). The cover is also amusing because it has Reb yelling and machine gunning on it (though it might have been cool to use the
    old Media VHS release art).

    The Final Word:


    Mercenary Fighters is awesome in a bad action movie sort of way. Turn off your brain and smile along with Reb as he machine guns people who don't deserve it and just go with it. MGM's MOD/DVD-R looks pretty good and while it definitely deserved more extras, hey, the trailer is pretty cool.






















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