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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Mercenary

January 29, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Mercenary

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #540: The Mercenary

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets review column that has never been in a knife fight in a church out in the jungle or, really, anywhere, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and forty, I take a look at the new badass low budget action flick The Mercenary, now available on DVD, Video On Demand, and, at some point, Netflix.

The Mercenary


The Mercenary, also known as Mercenary and Legion Maxx and directed by action master Jesse V. Johnson, is yet another modern action classic from the man who gave us, in 2019, the terrific action ensemble Triple Threat and the top notch Scott Adkins revenge vehicle Avengement (and in 2018 Accident Man and The Debt Collector). Sort of a spiritual cousin to his 2017 flick Savage Dog, The Mercenary is an action flick that’s both thrilling and deeply emotional. Filled with shocking violence and a truly heartfelt performance from star Dominiquie Vandenberg, it’s a movie that will move you in ways that you don’t expect it to.

Vandenberg stars as Maxx, a badass former Legionnaire turned high priced mercenary that travels to the world’s various hot spots to kill people for big money. As part of a team led by the hilariously profane and amoral LeClerc (Louis Mandylor), we see Maxx do violence for profit in Central Africa, Iraq, and, eventually Colombia. Unlike his fellow mercenaries, you get the sense early on that Maxx isn’t too keen on his chosen profession, at least not as keen as he likely was when he started. Maxx doesn’t seem to take joy in any of his jobs (check out the scene in Iraq where he kills sixteen people single handedly. Maxx isn’t exhausted because he just took out almost twenty people with a knife and his bare hands. He’s exhausted because he doesn’t seem to understand what he’s doing with himself anymore). While in Colombia, in the middle of taking out a jungle drug lab, Maxx refuses to shoot an unarmed female drug lab worker and then saves a female drug lab worker from being raped by one of his fellow mercenaries. That rapist mercenary then attacks Maxx, badly stabbing him in the neck and leaving him for dead. Maxx sort of recovers from the attack and then wanders the jungle, looking for help. When LeClerc finds out that Maxx might be dead, he engages in a half-assed search for his friend before deciding to leave him behind. Maxx knew the risks, knew what he signed up for. LeClerc has to get everyone else out of the jungle before the drug lab owners send in shooters to find out what happened. It’s what any responsible mercenary team leader would do.

Maxx, bleeding badly and now sicker than shit, is eventually rescued by a local priest (Father Elias, as played by Carmen Argenziano) and given medical attention and food. Father Elias tries to find out who Maxx is but Maxx, despondent over what’s happened to him, has trouble communicating with the religious leader and basically just stares off into space. Father Elias keeps at Maxx, though, and eventually gets him to interact with him (he makes Maxx sweep the floor of the church and has him eat lots and lots of stew). It’s at this point that Father Elias introduces Maxx to his helper Father Thiago (Manny Alva), a young priest that immediately suspects that Maxx is trouble. There’s an unsettling air of violence and madness surrounding Maxx, and Father Thiago would much rather not have Maxx around. Father Elias wants Maxx to stay, though, and Maxx agrees to, donning a priest’s frock and sandals and participating in mass. It’d an odd situation since Maxx isn’t a priest and really isn’t religious at all, but, at the same time, for Maxx, it just seems right. Right now, hanging out in the church is the right thing to do. It’s all kind of peaceful.

Unfortunately, that peaceful feeling doesn’t last long. One day, out of the blue, Maxx prevents a local woman from being kidnapped by two cartel thugs (one of which is played by the great Luke LaFontaine, who also served as the movie’s stunt coordinator), and by prevents I mean Maxx beats the shit out of them. After the cartel thugs retreat, they try to tell their boss, who happens to be LeClerc, what happened. When LaFontaine’s Tex identifies Maxx as the guy that kicked his ass from a team photo that LeClerc has hanging on the wall, LeClerc becomes incensed. Maxx was supposed to be dead. Why the hell is he portraying a priest in the jungle?

LeClerc heads to the church to see if the ass kicking priest really is his old friend Maxx, and when he finds out that he is Maxx, LeClerc tries to make him a deal. If Maxx agrees to come see him back at his headquarters and explain himself, LeClerc won’t immediately kill all of the locals in the area. So Maxx goes to LeClerc’s HQ to explain himself and to, maybe, convince LeClerc to leave the church and its congregants alone. After explaining that he no longer wants to be a part of LeClerc’s mercenary team or kill people or work for the cartels, Maxx gets LeClerc to agree to leave the church and its people alone as long as Maxx leaves the town. It doesn’t take long for LeClerc to break his promise to his old friend and attack both Maxx and the church. If Maxx doesn’t want to be a part of LeClerc’s mercenary team anymore, LeClerc can’t allow Maxx to live anymore. I guess it’s one of those “You get to leave the team when I fucking say you can” kinds of situations.

So LeClerc and his mercenary team attack Maxx (they actually crucify him), blow up the church, and come up with a plan to kill the town. They should have made sure that Maxx was really dead, though, after the team shot up the church and launched a grenade inside. Maxx manages to escape from the violence and, along with both Father Elias and Thiago, head into the jungle to come up with a plan of attack. Maxx doesn’t want to be a violent man anymore, but LeClerc and his mercenary team are just too dangerous to leave in power. With the blessing of Father Elias, Maxx agrees to use his own considerable mercenary skills to take out LeClerc’s team and save the church and its congregants. It’s doing God’s work.

And that’s exactly what Maxx does. God’s work, or, really, the work that needs to be done, considering the situation he finds himself in and the world that he inhabits. And Maxx is very good at doing God’s work.

Very, very good.

What I love most about The Mercenary is that, while being a straight up, badass action flick, it’s also a movie about a man seeking some sort of redemption from all of the nastiness that he’s been involved in for most of his life. Maxx was a killer for hire and he did what he did for money and, in a way, for the thrill of it. Going off to some far off place with his fellow mercenaries to take down various people (some of them were bad guys, sure, but when you’re a mercenary does it really matter if the people you kill are good or bad? It’s all about the money) was no doubt exciting. But the nastiness ate at him, slowly but surely, until Maxx realized that he couldn’t do it anymore. The terrible things he did that he was okay with doing just stopped being okay. Maxx had to make a change before his world totally consumed him.

On top of that, when you realize that one of his fellow mercenaries turned on Maxx at the drop of a hat and that LeClerc, Maxx’s friend, didn’t really make much of an effort to go look for his friend when he went missing, it makes you wonder why anyone would want to get involved with the mercenary world in the first place. Even among a team that has to rely on one another in order to survive the mission/job, there’s no real loyalty to be had. You may think your fellow mercs are your family, but they don’t give a fuck about you. If they have to kill you in order to achieve their goal, they’ll do it. Money and the thrills trump loyalty every time. That’s a harsh, super shitty world to inhabit.

So when Maxx meets up with Father Elias and starts protecting his church, you’re totally behind what he’s doing. Maxx is still a dangerous individual and he’s still the guy that did all of those terrible things before, but he’s trying to make up for all of that. He’s trying to be a good guy and he’s going to make an effort to do the right thing. That’s a huge change for someone who was in a world that was nothing more than, at best, shades of gray. Because what is right in that kind of world? What is wrong? Who the hell knows and, hey, who cares as long as the money is right, right?

I also love how the bad guys in The Mercenary are bad guys that need to be taken out. Yes, Louis Mandylor gives a brilliant performance as LeClerc and he’s fun to watch/interesting, but you never once think he’s a guy you want to see alive at the end of the movie. You know that LeClerc is the bad guy and a piece of shit and that he needs to be destroyed. LeClerc’s team needs to be destroyed, too. The mercenary world is so corrupting and awful. I mean, look at LeClerc’s sole female member, Magpie (Alina Andrei). On top of all of the nasty shit she does in conjunction with her fellow team members, Magpie is also a thief (she likes to loot dead bodies). No one is safe from being corrupted. No one.

The action that director Johnson, stunt coordinator Luke LaFontaine, and fight coordinator Malay Kim manage to put together is both exciting and shockingly violent. From the various gun battles to the brutal hand-to-hand fights, The Mercenary isn’t fucking around. When people get shot they get shot and when people get stabbed they get fucking stabbed. The knife fights are so brutal that even I flinched a few times. And, my God, the blood flows in The Mercenary. Absolutely no one gets off easy in this movie.

I also want to commend whoever came up with the head bashing scene that happens towards the end of the movie. It’s a scene that escalates quickly, makes you wince, and then makes you cheer because, really, how often do you see a full blast head smashing scene in a modern action movie? Decapitations? Quite often. But a head smashing where we see (and feel) the head smashing? It really is a gross thing of beauty.

Dominiquie Vandenberg is terrific as Maxx. He makes you feel Maxx’s serious mental pain as he deals with his personal conflict. And after Maxx is essentially thrown out of the LeClerc mercenary team and he searches for what is next in his life he makes you root for him. That’s a major accomplishment when you consider who he used to hang out with and work with. And when he decides to do the right thing and take out his former mercenary colleagues and protect the community you root for him even more. Vandenberg is also a gifted martial artist and it’s a joy watching him beat the shit out of people and stab them to death. Apparently Vandenberg was a member of the French Foreign Legion Special Forces back in the day, so this movie clearly has some personal resonance for him (he is also one of the movie’s executive producers). When you realize that it makes his performance as Maxx that much more interesting.

Louis Mandylor is great as LeClerc, the mercenary team leader. As I said earlier, LeClerc is a total piece of shit that you want to see go down and be dead, but at the same time Mandylor makes LeClerc interesting and fun to watch. Mandylor’s line readings are often hilarious using his, I guess, natural Australian accent. I mean, just listen to him swear. If you don’t find yourself laughing hysterically at times you need to rewind the movie and listen to Mandylor again. I know I would be down for some sort of action comedy where Mandylor uses his Australian accent to its fullest potential. Also, be sure to check out the sword vs. knife fight at the end. In a less accomplished actor’s hands that scene probably wouldn’t work. Mandylor, along with Vandenberg, makes it a classic.

The rest of the mercenary cast is amazing in their sleaziness. It’s a toss-up as to who the sleaziest is. Alina Andrei’s Magpie is truly awful, yes, but so is Brad Ashten’s Rodriguez, Robb Zbacnik’s Notch, and Jeremiah B. McQueen’s Hammaford. Luke LaFontaine’s Tex is the funniest of the mercenary team, as he just gets shit on again and again and he just takes it.

Carmen Argenziano is awesome as Father Elias, the old priest that helps Maxx figure out his new standing in the world. He’s a good natured man that always does the right thing, or at least tries to. He didn’t have to help out and befriend a wounded Maxx. He could have left him for dead in the jungle. But Elias couldn’t do that. He helped Maxx out, fixed him up, and gave him the opportunity for a new purpose. How can you dislike any of that? Argenziano has excellent chemistry with Vandenberg, doing a sort of “father figure” kind of thing. You will be devastated by what happens to him. And Manny Alva is appropriately annoying as Father Thiago. Sure, it’s probably a good thing that he’s leery of Maxx since Maxx is brutal killer and gives off that dangerous vibe, but it’s still annoying. Father Elias sees the potential for good in Maxx, why the hell can’t Thiago? Goddamit.

The Mercenary ends with the possibility of more adventures for our hero Maxx, and I for one am totally down for that. I would love to know where in the world Maxx thinks people need him. And where in the world needs God’s work the most? Hopefully, one day, we’ll get to see.

The Mercenary is top notch action entertainment. It has everything you want to see in an action movie. Everything. If you’re an action movie fan, you need to make The Mercenary a priority. It’s an absolute must see.

See The Mercenary. See it, see it, goddamn see it!


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: If it’s less than 50 I’d be shocked. I lost count at 30.

Explosions: Several, big and small.

Nudity?: Briefly. It’s horrifying.

Doobage: A man wearing a red Devil mask, multiple machine gun attacks, multiple thump gun attacks, big ass machine gun attack, a giant machete fight, death via knife, cigar smoking, guys in trucks, sniper hooey, a village massacre, an ambush, bloody eye gouging, full auto handgun hooey, mega throat slitting with blood splash, shotgun hooey, a slow motion 2-on-1 fight with knife play and blood sprays, a full on martial arts murder spree where one guy kills at least 16 people single handedly, a drug village in the middle of the jungle, women packaging cocaine, multiple grenade attacks, attempted rape, face kicking, a nasty neck wound, suicide by grenade, multiple instances of stealing from dead bodies, serious foot problems, floor sweeping, priest bullshit, stew eating, more floor sweeping, talk of life and love, a food offering, serious ass kicking, wood cutting, more automatic handgun hooey, a meeting, a broken promise, fucking crucifixion, exploding church, priest killing, Winchester pump hooey, bloody hand removal, more throat slitting, post-justified massage booze drinking, more dead body robbing, more machine gun hooey, hidden grenades, exposed human entrails, a gun battle inside of a truck, neck biting, even more thump gun hooey, a “polite” knife fight, mega slow heart stabbing, serious head smashing, evisceration, knife vs. sword fight, and the promise of more adventures.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Central Africa, Dominiquie Vandenberg, Louis Mandylor, Louis Mandylor using his “natural” Australian accent, a group photo, dead body robbing, a priest out in the jungle, Bible reading, sandals, stew, Luke LaFontaine, automatic handgun hooey, fucking crucifixion, a Winchester pump, a Pablo Escobar wall mural, an on screen dedication to the Legionnaires, and the promise of more adventures.

Best lines: “Freeze motherfucker!,” “See anything? Nothing. Keep scanning,” “Psycho motherfucker get your rifle. Let’s go,” “You’re gonna fucking love this!,” “I’m gonna cut your fucking head off, Legionnaire,” “Nice ring,” “You need to relax, boss. You need to do your job,” “High pay, high risk,” “Are you sure you don’t want the sandals?,” “So, you take charity without offering anything in return?,” “Are you able to talk at all?,” “I expect to see you at mass this evening,” “Someday, with God’s grace, she will learn to make something other than stew,” “You fucking stink, priest, and so does this fucking food,” “That was rather anti-climactic, wasn’t it?,” “She stays. She stays,” “I’m sorry, father. I understand, my son,” “That was a very interesting lesson in non-violence,” “You think I’m a fucking idiot?,” “Magpie, out your gun on the table, please,” “You sloppy lying fucking cunt!,” “And I knew you weren’t fucking dead! I knew it!,” “Your fight is not here, LeClerc,” “Always punctual, right, Max?,” “You can keep the sandals, Max,” “You betrayed me twice, brother,” “Hang in there, Maxx,” “Man, I been waiting to do that!,” “Location, location, location,” “You don’t want soup?,” “Never did like priests,” “Must be Maxx. Doesn’t make fucking sense,” “This is not your fight. You don’t need to die. If you pick up that pistol I will kill you,” “Today is his fucking day!,” “They’re all fucking dead!,” “Ahh! Fuck me!,” “You think you’re better than us but you’re not!,” “It was always coming to this,” and “Goodbye, Father.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0




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Things to Watch Out For


The Courier: Olga Kurylenko and the great Gary Oldman star in this low budget action flick about a badass female courier that ends up accidentally transporting a bomb. Or something. And it takes place in both New York City and London. Oh, and Gary Oldman is wearing an eyepatch in it for some reason. For that fact alone this movie is a must see. Anyone out there see this? Is it as cool as the trailer suggests it is? I definitely want to check this out.


Lake Artifact: I actually saw this at the 2019 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival this past summer and, man, was it wild. Written and directed by Bruce Wemple, it’s the story of a group of friends on a weekend getaway in the woods who end up getting stuck in the middle of some weird beard time displacement thing. It’s funny, it’s thrilling, and it’s absolutely terrifying at the end. An absolute must see if you like movies that are unpredictable. Lake Artifact is unpredictable.


Nothing Man: This is apparently some sort of mega low budget British action flick about a homeless guy with amnesia who also happens to be a private investigator that starts looking into the murder of his best friend and, as tends to happen in these kinds of movies, there’s something bigger going on. At around 80 minutes, this movie likely moves quickly, doesn’t waste time, and kicks ass, at least that’s what I hope happens. Definitely worth a rental, just to see if it’s as interesting as it seems. And how could you not like the title? Nothing Man.


Zombieland: Double Tap: I liked the original Zombieland, but I didn’t love it, and I wasn’t all that enthused about the idea of this sequel. What the hell was it going to be about? Didn’t the first one pretty much do everything it could with the idea? Well, I’m happy to say that Double Tap is awesome and one of the best movies I saw theatrically in 2019. The cast is phenomenal, the zombie action top notch, and the movie is genuinely funny. If you didn’t see Double Tap when it was in theatres, check it out now that it’s on home video. It’s absolutely worth your time. Do you think we’ll have to wait another ten years to get a third one?


House by the Cemetery: The fine folks at Blue Underground are behind this latest home video release of Lucio Fulci’s classic gore fest horror flick about a family in New England that’s beset by some scary what have yous in the basement. Blue Underground always puts out terrific Blu-rays, and this new Blu-ray is a 3-disc affair with several new special features, including a new commentary track, several interviews, and a CD of the movie’s soundtrack (plus you get all of the special features that appeared on the previous Blue Underground release of the movie. The movie is also uncensored). And I’d suspect that this edition is going to be the best this movie has ever looked, as the movie was restored by Blue Underground in 4K. So, if you’re a Fulci fan this Blu-ray is no doubt a must have.


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Mercenary

Dominiquie Vandenberg– Maxx
Louis Mandylor– LeClerc
Carmen Argenziano– Father Elias
Manny Alva– Father Thiago
Brad Ashten– Rodriguez
Rob Zbacnik– Notch
Jeremiah B. McQueen– Hammaford
Geordie Robinson– Wilson
Alina Andrei– Magpie
Luke LaFontaine– Tex

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Jesse V. Johnson
Screenplay by David Filmore

Distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment and Evolutionary Films

Not Rated
Runtime– 91 minutes

Buy it here