The Last Mercenary (2021)

Posted in Reviews by - July 31, 2021
The Last Mercenary (2021)

Another curious twist in the fascinating latter stages of Van Damme‘s film career – a zany, self-aware French action comedy for Netflix. As the legendary mercenary, Richard Brumère – a high-kicking master of disguise known as ‘The Mist’, famous for his disappearing acts and killing a rhino with his bare hands – the role is both a send-up and an homage to his action man persona (there’s even a fourth-wall-breaking moment in which Brumère smirks at a poster of Bloodsport, remarking “that’s a real man”, essentially in reference to his younger self). The film stops short of actually making Brumère the butt of the joke – unlike Jason Statham’s masterful comedic turn in Spy. Instead, Brumère is a lot closer to Van Damme’s Jean-Claude Van Johnson role from his very funny short-lived Amazon series: absurd, yes, but still in control and kicking ass. We also get a level of commitment from Van Damme which we haven’t seen for a while; knowingly silly (he dresses in a variety of wigs and facial hair to play waiters, lifeguards, cleaners, and a woman), but with a substantial enough character arc to allow for sentimental asides, and some refreshingly feisty fight scenes which, even at the age of 60, show him to be more than ready for action. Sure, he may be doubled for parts of it, but the scenes still land. The script from writer-director David Charhon is lodged somewhere between a James Bond spoof and an estranged father-son bonding session. Due to a cost-cutting exercise at the French Ministry of Defence, an inept official reveals the true identity of a 25-year-old, quiet, suburban nobody called Archibald (Samir Decazza), who has been kept in witness protection because of his links to Brumère – his real father – and a covert operation in the mid-90s. With the government eager to cover its tracks and silence those involved, Brumère comes out of hiding to go on the run with his son, and the bonding ensues. They form part of a ragtag team of amateur sleuths which also includes a sibling petty crime duo (good supporting turns from Assa Sylla and Djimo) and the inept government whistleblower (Alban Ivanov), who is also being targeted by his own boss due to links to a shady arms deal involving a Tony Montana wannabe (Nassim Si Ahmed, deliriously over-the-top). All of these convoluted threads combine in a high-spirited fashion, allowing for a few twists and turns along the way, and it remains fun without ever being particularly funny – unless the sight of Alban Ivanov hurtling through Paris in his underpants on an electric scooter is your idea of funny. For a younger generation not brought up on a diet of gung-ho Van Damme action flicks, the whole premise – and particularly the infatuation with its leading actor – may seem puzzling. But if you’re already invested, it’s diverting enough.

AKA: Le dernier mercenaire.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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