The Last Mercenary, 2021.
Directed by David Charhon.
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Valérie Kaprisky, Miou-Miou, Eric Judor, Alban Ivanov, Assa Sylla, Patrick Timsit, Zakhar Shadrin, Samir Decazza, Michel Crémadès, Djimo, Mike Gassaway, Aleksey Gorbunov, and Nassim Lyes.
A mysterious former secret service agent must urgently return to France when his estranged son is falsely accused of arms and drug trafficking by the government, following a blunder by an overzealous bureaucrat and a mafia operation.
The opening moments of The Last Mercenary are actually mildly promising, with a prologue demonstrating that while underappreciated legendary action star Jean-Claude Van Damme is nowhere near as nimble and agile as his glory days, he can still throw trademark roundhouse kicks and do the splits. Here, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a special forces agent expelled from France, although still working, pulling off dangerous jobs such as rescuing the son of a Russian government official. There’s also a bit of slapstick humor involving the son, suggesting that this vehicle for the senior but still likable screen presence will make up for some of the action shortcomings with a healthy balance of comedy.
With that said, there’s not much that can prepare anyone for how hard director David Charhon (co-writing this mess alongside Ismaël Sy Savané) is going for broad comedy, packing into the story a weapon of technological destruction called Big Mac, a criminal obsessed with Brian Depalma’s Scarface to the point where he thinks Tony Montana is a real character that wrote the movie, dimwitted high-ranking government agents, and dressing up Jean-Claude Van Damme as a woman (complete with wigs) for an extended climax that has to be one of the lowest points of his endearing career.
Among all this craziness is Richard’s (Jean-Claude Van Damme) estranged son Archibald (Samir Decazza), living in a well-off suburb of France under the guardianship of the elderly Fernand (Michel Crémadès), unaware that he was once a partner of the father he is currently under the impression that abandoned him and his mother who later died from cancer. Archibald is sort of a young adult spoiled punk (he gets a monthly transaction of money from his absentee father) hanging around peers selling drugs to get by through college. The police force also seems to be aware that Archibald is the son of Richard, always trying to arrest him for something, except that somehow he has been granted lifetime immunity from the law (or something along those lines).
One of the aforementioned government officials is the clownish and oafish Alexandre (Alban Ivanov), who lifts that immunity while looking into something suspicious for his work (it’s not clearly explained and also doesn’t really matter), playing right into the hands of wannabe Tony Montana (Nassim Lyes) who plans on assuming the identity of Archibald with nefarious intent relating to the Big Mac, a device capable of shutting down all technology. When initially tested, it temporarily shuts off Fernand’s pacemaker leaving him to die, but not before calling up Richard to reunite and protect his son from the ensuing storm.
While donning one of many ridiculous disguises throughout The Last Mercenary, Richard makes contact with Archibald and gets into a high-speed police chase (set to eighties music, of course), subsequently introducing himself as George, a friend of both Richard and Fernand. Naturally, bonding under dishonesty does not go well, especially considering father and son are mismatched to such a degree it leads to Richard having a moment of toxic masculinity wishing his son was also a capable fighter. While hiding out in figuring out the best approach towards unearthing the government conspiracy (there’s also a subplot where Richard impregnated one of their wives while on a rescue mission), the duo also puts together a team consisting of both of their friend groups. None of the characters are memorable or interesting, only existing to be tossed into more shockingly bad humor (at one point, Richard forces someone to ride a bike through public in his underwear).
Again, it’s certainly not a bad idea to put Jean-Claude Van Damme into a more lighthearted and cheerful espionage action setting, but whatever passes for comedy here is outright abysmal. The same could be said about The Last Mercenary in its entirety, which will bait Netflix users with hopes of witnessing something that could qualify as a relic of its time. Once it’s over, there’s nothing left but feeling embarrassed for Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com