Judge David Johnson did his hair up in a slicked-back ponytail in the ninth grade and the girls loved it.
It's time to fight again.
Steven Seagal is back in action. Yeah, he's less "buff" and more "buffet" these days, but brother still knows how to snarl and shoot guns at bad guys.
Facts of the Case
Seagal plays John Seeger, the titular mercenary. Seeger is widely acknowledged as the best at what he does (has Seagal ever played a character in film who wasn't widely acknowledged as the best at what he does?), and his talents are often exploited by both private warmongers and the CIA. His latest mission, a gun-blasting cluster-F in Africa, turns into a fiasco and he loses one of his best friends. Turns out, the whole thing was a screw-job facilitated by a Langley scumbag, and Seeger is none too happy about how events went down.
Now Seeger has to face the widow of his pal, and let her know that, baby, there be hell to pay! Tapped for another job, this time springing the son of a wealthy drug runner from a fortified South African prison, Seeger reassembles his crew for the most daring mission yet. But is it the mission he's been paid to do or does he have some very violent tricks up his sleeve?
Interested in how the filmmakers settled on the title Mercenary for Justice, I did a little bit of research and discovered that they had used brand new marketing technology. It's called the Generic Expository Direct-to-DVD Action Title Generator and it's just been released in its beta version. Apparently, Seagal, also the executive producer of the film, was eager to try out the new software algorithm and this film's title is the result. In a DVD Verdict exclusive, I was able to score the list of other names the Generic Expository Direct-to-DVD Action Title Generator spit out, which, obviously, didn't make the cut. For your reading pleasure, I present them to you now:
• Terrific Fighter with Guns
But Mercenary for Justice it was, and boys and girls, this overheated actioner is every bit as ridiculous as its moniker suggests. Villains sneer and deliver their goofy lines soaked in faux malice, good guys get shot and manage to sputter out requests to look after their wives as maroon sputum dribbles from their lips and their eyes glaze over in death, fantastically violent shootouts leave no gun clips depleted, and every single CIA bureaucrat is a slimeball (that last one may not be too far from the truth).
And then there's Seagal.
Sure, he's carrying around a few extra pounds but the trademarks that made him a B-level action icon in the early '90s are there: squinty eyes, jet black hair (sans the classic ponytail), emotionless line delivery, incessant arms crossing, and, of course, that magical, mythical ability to come out of any brouhaha unscathed. I was actually pleased to see him unleash a bit more of that hand-to-hand we've come to expect; he snaps more than one neck during the runtime.
The story is a little more complex that's what's typical of this fare, flush with double-crosses and red herrings, but it's not nearly as clever as it wants to be. Many of the twists and plot points depend on utter ineptitude of supporting characters, and lucky for Seeger and company, he's surrounded by them (quite possibly the stupidest bank employees ever captured to film can be found here). Unfortunately, the writing is completely inane, and when pummeled by the give-it-all-they-got actors, descends into borderline parody. There were several moments, were it not for the graphic violence, Mercenary for Justice could have been mistaken for a David Zucker movie.
About that violence, kudos to director Don Fauntleroy for milking his R rating. There's lots of shooting and exploding wounds and limb snapping and balls of fire and it's all shot with a nice degree of quality. The opening war scenes in particular are well done, and the visual effects look about as good as a big-screen feature. Heck, the lack of cheeseball CGI might even lift it above the crap Hollywood's been trying to pass off as action lately.
Both a full screen and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer come on this dual-sided (blecch) disc. The picture quality is solid and the grime and grit of a war-torn battlefield contrast nicely with the plumes of fire erupting behind it. Seagal's weather-beaten face is rendered gloriously. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is loud and effectively thundering. A 15-minute featurette, with actors talking about how great Steven Seagal is, is the only extra feature of note.
It's no worse than most DVD-centric action films starring has-been theatrical actors, but don't be frontin': Mercenary for Justice is as dopey and overwrought as they get. And I'm thinking it's about time Seagal hung up the 9mm and started coaching youth soccer.
Guilty—of being Awesomely Action-Packed Awesomeness!!! KA-BOOM!!!
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