Merchants of War (1989)

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In the vein of 80’s military B-movies, this action packed film is a wild ride for one man who intends to go against the odds and get his buddy back.

Nick Drennen and Frank Kane are the leaders of a mercenary group, codename Wild Bunch. The other core members include Tom Harris and Harry Gere. When they successfully rescue a kidnapped ex-soldier in Beirut, the only survivor is Middle Eastern crime lord Musa Alwi, who sets a plan of revenge. When Nick and Frank are hired to do a job for the CIA in Angola, the mission is a failure when both Nick and Frank have been taken hostage.

Nick has learned that Musa is behind the “mission” and has allied himself with the maniacal Vaisal as the two plan to use Nick and Frank for an upcoming summit of terrorism. With the help of 10-year old Bugsy and former buddy Gordo, Nick manages to escape and return to the United States. When he learns Frank may be alive, he is determined to return to Angola to find his friend. At first reluctant, Tom and Harry decide to join Nick in his mission to rescue Frank and get his own revenge against the duo of Vaisal and Musa.

During the 80’s, loads of B-movies in the action genre were that of the military action film. This film from director Peter M. McKenzie is one of the straightforward yet action packed films that make good use of its lead actor, Asher Brauner, and why not? Brauner also co-wrote the screenplay and came up with the story.

Brauner takes the lead as Nick, a hot-headed mercenary leader who makes the promise of one last mission to his wife only to find himself kidnapped, only to be able to escape and band his old buddies to rescue his fellow mercenary. Brauner makes the most of his role with some stereotypical one-liners and somewhat of a bit of overacting in one scene, where he’s determined to get his buddy back when he meets with old buddies Tom and Harry, played by John Barrett and Robin Smith.

However, Brauner’s acting in the film is nothing compared to the overacting of one of the two primary villains, Vaisal, played by Gerald Weir. Vaisal clearly spends most of his film angry, yelling most of his dialogue and even stands behind a podium in the final act shouting anti-American sentiment that goes beyond the borders of laughable. As for the other main villain, Adrian Waldron’s Musa, the villain has a look that could come out of an 80’s hair metal band with pretty horrendous accent.

While the overacting is expected in these type of films, making it forgivable, the action is pretty fun, truly having a Cannon Films-style influence in the numerous shootouts and explosions. Co-star John Barrett also served as the film’s “stunt advisor” but don’t expect his trademark martial arts in the film aside from a spin kick and a roundhouse in the final action scene. It’s more firepower and done with such style that this truly a definitive 80’s action B-movie.

Merchants of War is truly an 80’s B-movie lover’s dream military action film that has it all: stereotypical villains, overacting, and Cannon-style action sequences. In other words, a fun action wild ride!

WFG RATING: B-

Triax Entertainment Group presents an Anglo Pacific Films production. Director: Peter M. McKenzie. Producers: Chris Davies and Lionel A. Ephraim. Writers: Asher Brauner and Eric Weston. Cinematography: Rod Stewart. Editing: Simon Grimley and Peter M. McKenzie.

Cast: Asher Brauner, Jesse Vint, John Barrett, Robin Smith, Adrian Waldron, Gerald Weir, Calvin Tau, Japan Mthembu, Bonnie Beck, Norman Anstey, Tullio Moneta, Graham Armitage, Richard Sibaya Nzimande.

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