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‘The Last Mercenary’ Review: Van Damme in a Dubbed French Spy Comedy

Through the closing credit of “The Last Mercenary,” we see a montage of Jean-Claude Van Damme within the numerous getups he wore through the film (a fuzzy beard; a mustache and Yankees cap; a blond wig; a Bond tuxedo; drag). The movie presents this cavalcade of principally routine disguises with wide-eyed affection, as if it have been displaying us Peter Sellers in his “Pink Panther” prime. It’s all a part of the delusion that the makers of “The Final Mercenary” (who’re French) are apparently below: that Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t any mere motion star — that he’s a trendy comic, an icon of such ironic charisma that we’d observe him anyplace, even by way of the paces of a maladroit caper film like this one.

Van Damme was all the time a handsome bruiser, sleeker than these different martial-arts poster boys Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal. He’s 60 now, which in our world isn’t that previous for an getting old motion hero, however in “The Final Mercenary” he seems like a bombed-out model of himself — the ravaged, caved-in planes of his face, the scowl that melts right into a leer, the eyes that don’t a lot burn as glare with distemper. (It’s anybody’s guess why they determined to decorate that glum saturnine mug with sideburns that appear to be twin strips of shag carpeting.) Van Damme now resembles nobody a lot as a corrupt, gone-to-seed model of Jim Varney, the actor who starred within the “Ernest” movies, although I don’t assume Van Damme’s 60-going-on-undead look could be a lot of an issue if he have been doing that factor that virtually any Van Damme fan desires to see him do. You already know, preventing.

He does do a little bit of the previous kickboxing in “The Final Mercenary,” and guess what? He’s nonetheless thrilling to observe. The movie’s motion climax takes place in a recreation room full of pinball machines and video video games, and as Van Damme lays waste to his enemies, all set to the sounds of Sylvester singing “Do You Wanna Funk” (and to the ’80s beeps of the video games), the movie raises your pulse; it reminds you why Van Damme was a star. He was not a star as a result of he may act, however in “The Final Mercenary” he performs a legendary secret-service agent, Richard Brumère, nicknamed “the Mist” (as a result of that’s how arduous to hint he’s!), who is available in from the chilly after 25 years to reunite together with his long-lost son, the puppy-dog-like Archie (Semir Decazza), whom he didn’t elevate. You may name the movie a barely absurd corruption thriller, an motion film with not sufficient motion, or a by-the-numbers father-son bonding film.

But right here’s what’s bizarre about it. “The Final Mercenary” thinks it’s a comedy, however not as a result of something in it’s truly humorous. Slightly, all the film is dubbed, and I imply dubbed in that distractingly over-italicized, I’m-reading-my-lines-as-loud-as-I-can mode that was large within the ’60s (the “Godzilla” movies, the Italian “Hercules” movies, Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”), and that now appears a very weird anachronism. On this case, it feels such as you’re watching the worst dubbing within the historical past of unhealthy dubbing. The tone of the road readings is so in-your-face that it leaves you significantly questioning the place comedy leaves off and ineptitude begins.

The French, to be honest, have all the time discovered secret brokers humorous. Within the ’70s, they gave us “The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe,” which was a really humorous film about an extraordinary chump mistaken for a spy, and within the 2000s the “OSS 117” movies (which I like). However “The Final Mercenary,” which appears partly impressed by the 2017 Amazon collection “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” principally performs like a haphazard and overlit straight-to-home-viewing thriller.

There are sequences that may make you decrease your head in embarrassment, just like the one the place Lazare (Alban Ivanov), a authorities functionary who turns into a part of the Mist’s motley crew, takes a scooter experience by way of Paris in nothing however a helmet and his underwear. After which there’s the truth that Archie’s identification has been stolen by Simyon (Nassim Lyes), a psycho fool so obsessive about Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in “Scarface” that he thinks he is Tony Montana. That’s probably a humorous thought, however the film is so literal about it — he chews a cigar and says “Say hiya to my little good friend,” he watches “Scarface” in a screening room with the identical tropical sundown wallpaper — that it by no means fairly discovers what the joke is. Van Damme does have one thing he didn’t have earlier than: an aura of craggy seen-it-all-ness. In a greater film, it’d work. However “The Final Mercenary” is sort of a pedestal made to prop up his legend, and the pedestal is fabricated from balsa wooden.

https://selection.com/2021/movie/reviews/the-last-mercenary-review-jean-claude-van-damme-1235031881/ | ‘The Final Mercenary’ Review: Van Damme in a Dubbed French Spy Comedy

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