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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Review: The Mercenary (Original Title - The Lazarus Papers)

Title: The Mercenary (2010)
The Lazarus Papers (original title)
Rating: 18
Cast:
Danny Trejo ... Aroon
Gary Daniels ... Sebastian Riker
Krystal Vee ... Nana
John Edward Lee ... Lonny Smith
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister ... Tiny Delaney
Bai Ling ... Kyo
Damon Whitaker ... Dock Bagley
Summary: Aroon is a healer and immortal and when those he loves are killed or kidnapped by a ruthless mercenary he wishes to die as well. However, to die someone must willingly allow him to take their place as they cross over and become what he is in the real world.

This film was so not what I was expecting. I must admit I see Danny Trejo on a cover, especially when it's called something like 'The Mercenary' and I assume the movie is going to be bloody and revenge filled and Danny is going to be the man playing the character right at the centre of all that gore. I didn't even know this had a supernatural element and the whole thing pleasantly surprised me. I do enjoy a good revenge film like Machete, but this one was so much more interesting.

It starts off in a small village where Aroon is healing people and has a vision of a blond man waking up in front of a temple when Aroon shoots himself. While he is having the vision Sebastian Riker turns up, kills most people and kidnaps Nana so he can rape her and turn her into a prostitute.

I was expecting Aroon to stand up and start killing people after that, but he is actually a passive character. He wants to die, but has to find someone to take his place on earth. The active characters in this are Sebastian, Nana and Lonny.

The first thing I had to do was figure out why Sebastian looked so familiar. It took me a while, but then I finally realised that Gary Daniels also played the Fist of the Northstar. I have a soft spot for that movie, but I am glad to say his acting has improved since then and he does a very good job as a complete arsehole.

The story skips some time after the initial bad things happen and we move to the city where Nana is a prostitute and has just discovered she is HIV positive thanks to her drug habit. Her madam, Kyo gives her the option of becoming part of a mail order bride scam that Sebastian is running. She's going to be married twice and with the payoff she will at least have some money. One of the husbands turns out to be Lonny who is terminally ill and simply does not wish to die alone.

This is a violent movie, people get killed and hurt all over the place, but it has a great plot too. It's a revenge movie and a romance and a twisted tale of sex and drugs with a side of mysticism and it works. I totally did not see the end coming and it was perfect. The characters are also interesting and while Sebastian is pretty much a 2D bad guy, most of the others have some depth to them. There are twists and turns, some of them unexpected and I really enjoyed watching the whole thing.

This is not a one level bad guy picks the wrong village to gun down and then he and his friends all die kind of movie. It has a much deeper plot than that and some great characters. I honestly have no idea what they were thinking with the cover art - clearly someone had no idea what the film was actually about. If you like Asian movies that have a supernatural element with a very real world basis then this film has the same type of feel to it. Not for the faint of heart, but a good film in my opinion.

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