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Review: 'The Last Mercenary' (2021) Dir. David Charhon

Jean-Claude Van Damme, Alban Ivanov, Eric Judor, Miou-Miou, Samir Decazza, Assa Sylla, Michel Crémadès and Patrick Timsit


Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to his domestic roots with an action-comedy caper funded by Netflix that marks a return for the Muscles From Brussels away from the cinema screen...

Following a national French Government security blunder, young Archibald (Decazza) is accused of arms trafficking, of which he is innocent. The real masterminds behind the crime, want their stuff, and will do anything to get it back.

Former secret agent Richard Brumère (Van-Damme) returns to Paris after a quarter of a decade to help his son clear his name and prevent the real villains from succeeding...

Jean-Claude Van Damme returns with another tongue-in-cheek, self-aware role as a former French spy who must return to help his son in trouble with the mafia and the law, all over a case of bumbling inept Government officials. The focus here is far more on the silly comedy than it is on action as we see in the opening act; lots of gurning, bumping into objects, playing for the camera and general silly behaviour. The action that is peppered through is very standard, very basic hands-and-feet bone-breaking fight, shoot outs and car chases.

There is a real lack of imagination or originiality to this. The film feels low budget and struggling to find itself within the saggy story, and JCVD doesn't even make it that appealing to watch when he has weak material. It doesn't matter how many comical disguises you throw on him, how many well edited fights you frame him in or how many one-liners he drawls out, this just doens't feel a true representation of what the Muscles From Brussels can deliver, and it's a shame because he CAN deliver.

At 60, Van Damme still delivers the wit and action he always has, be it a little more slower and fused with stunt-doubles now, which is a shame. He's a capable actor, and cleary enjoying being back on screen.

The film belongs to JCVD, but you never feel he's truly the lead. That falls to the bumbling comical capers of Commandant Patrick Timsit (giving his best Inspector Jacques Clouseau) and unknowing Samir Decazza to stay one step ahead of those chasing them down. It feels inspired by the works of French farce, and you can see the inspirations in the many set pieces and use of the environment to make scenes engaging. Yet the script lets down our cast, despite how much passion they inject into the sloppy story or silly humour.

It's a very drawn out narrative of hunting down the real bad guys whilst protecting the good, offering nothing smart or memorable, with the farcial elements that come together with such promise. The characters are cardboard and almost lampooning, and there is nothing special to warrant such a headline return for JCVD.

'The Last Mercenary' has it's heart in the right place, but it's a sluggish, slightly boring watch with no real showcase for JCVD to get stuck into, however hard he tries.

'The Last Mercenary' is a co-production between Forecast Pictures, Other Angle Pictures and Mony Films.

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