Mercenary (1996)

Olivier Gruner faces his toughest mission ever! He must infiltrate the mountain fortress of the most feared terrorist on the planet, the evil Russian known as Phoenix! Phoenix is backed up the meanest assemblage of ex-Eastern European bad asses ever conceived in this dimension! He’s armed with the latest devastating weapons like SAM missiles that make any invasion of his hideout nothing short of pure suicide! And he’s already beat Olivier at his own game years before! But the tough part of Olivier’s mission is that he has take an out of shape and whiny John Ritter along for the ride!

John Ritter? You mean the dead guy who was on Three’s Company? The guy who finished up his career in one of those lame sitcoms playing one of those befuddled dads that always seem to be outwitted by their hot teenage daughter?

Did Olivier Gruner lose a bet or is this one of those movies where the tough guy gets mixed up in some hideous comedy like Vin Diesel in The Pacifier?

Rest easy, amigo – Olivier is snapping necks, not changing diapers in this one. Still, he gets involved with Ritter in just as convoluted manner as if this was a comedy involving preschoolers and terrorists so you’d probably enjoy yourself more if you didn’t stop to think about how dumb it all was.

Ritter is a millionaire hosting a party for an author when Phoenix and his men attack killing the author as well as Ritter’s wife. Ritter himself was wounded and vows to get revenge on Phoenix for the death of his wife. Not getting any help from our pussy government, Ritter turns to the one guy that hates Phoenix more than Ritter does. Enter Hawk!

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Hawk (Gruner) is the best death machine ever to come out of NATO special forces! He was head of Sabre which did all sorts he-man missions around the world, but there was a single stain on his impressive resumé of death and destruction!

Beirut! 1989! Phoenix bombs the military barracks that Hawk was in charge of securing and was never caught! Hawk quit the force shortly after that and became a…mercenary!

Phoenix is also a freelancer now, selling his evilness to the highest bidder and we all know that means the potential for doublecrosses is 120%! And the doublecrossing gets going in earnest after Hawk turns Ritter down for the job of going after Phoenix!

Hawk knows that Ritter is all emotional and that’s the sort of thing that gets you killed on a mission! Well that and the fact that you are a flabby civilian millionaire with no military training and you want to go against the greatest villain in the history of the universe!

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Luckily for Ritter, Hawk’s old buddy gets caught with drugs in his luggage so Hawk agrees to drag Ritter out to Turdistan to harass Phoenix in exchange for helping out Hawk’s pal.

Once they get to Turdistan, the movie began to surprise me. I figured we were in for a half hour montage of getting Ritter whipped into shape, but while we did get to see Hawk’s pal with a stopwatch shaking his head that it was still taking too long to storm the mock up of Phoenix’s lair they had built, the training was over in a hurry.

Thankfully there was plenty of time for Ritter to cuss out Hawk for being mean to him and also for Hawk to give Ritter a dirty look when Ritter tried on Hawk’s beret! Come on guys! How are you going to defeat Phoenix if you’re busy fighting over clothes?

All of that is finally sorted out and Hawk, Ritter, and the rest of the team parachute into Phoenix’s fortress. Their brief training pays off as they are all immediately killed or captured! This is where Phoenix gets a chance to shine!

Phoenix is expertly played by Martin Kove who affects one of those bad guy Russian accents and is prone to lines such as “how do you say?” whenever he wants to make a snide comment to Hawk.

Despite not being in the movie for long he also engages in a fair amount of over-the-top terrorist activities. He fights Hawk and one of his men with knives inside of a ring surrounded by fire! He rapes native women! He even locks Ritter in a cell with a man-eating dog who is chained to the wall, but Phoenix releases acid so that it slowly dissolves the chains holding the dog at bay! It probably isn’t a stretch to suggest that Phoenix has seen his fair share of James Bond movies!

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The last part of the movie has Hawk and Ritter trying to survive in the mountains of Turdistan as they simultaneously work to avoid Phoenix’s men and get back to their base. Lots of action surrounding this as well as their escape from Phoenix easily puts this a cut above Savage, the other movie that Gruner and director Avi Nesher made together. (A lack of references to aliens, Atlantis and virtual reality also helped.)

Yes, their escape in a helicopter was hampered by non-existent special effects, but the big dune buggy chase that ended with Hawk and Ritter going over a cliff was great! And really, with Ritter at the wheel, could Hawk be surprised that they ended up upside down in a river a hundred feet below where they started?

The action continues even when they get back to their base as the ultimate betrayal comes to fruition. Like I said, it’s best not to dwell on how complicated and far-fetched the actions taken were to cover up something, but a movie with Olivier Gruner should never involve Securities and Exchange Commission audits.

Olivier gets to do a lot of fighting and killing, says little, and his facial expressions consist of squinting his eyes ever so slightly to indicate he’s thinking. Yes, it’s a must for Olivier fans! Ritter fans? Maybe not so much. You do get see him stab a guy a couple of times though. And Hawk even gives him his own beret at the conclusion of the film! I’m pretty sure that’s better than any Emmy he won for one of those stinky TV shows he was on!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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