The great Jesse V. Johnson unleashes his first action film of the year with the underrated Dominiquie Vandenberg showcasing his action skills in this tale of redemption.
Maxx is one of the best mercenaries in a group led by the insane LeClerc. During a routine mission, the group raids a small village. However, Maxx’s moral compass gets the best of him when he sees one of his fellow mercenaries attacking a young woman. The group has grown tired and during a secondary mission, leaves Maxx injured and left for dead. At first, LeClerc is shocked to hear the news, but eventually accepts Maxx’s fate and moves on.
Found at a small church led by missionary Father Elias, Maxx finds a new outlook on life. He decides to stay behind and finds himself becoming a missionary himself. When a young woman arrives and finds herself followed by two local thugs, Maxx is able to fight them off. Soon, his cover has been blown as the thugs are revealed to be working for LeClerc, who is stunned to learn Maxx is still alive. When LeClerc begins to cause trouble for Maxx and the church, Maxx soon realizes there is only one way to find redemption and that’s to finally fight back.
2019 has been quite the year for director Jesse V. Johnson. His films Triple Threat and Avengement had gained quite the following. For 2020, he hopes to start off with a bang in the form of this action film…and he succeeds to a tee. The story of a former mercenary who seeks redemption by joining the church finds his past catching up to him may seem like one done numerous times. However, when it comes to characters and ideas, this becomes a fresh approach to the idea.
The titular character is played by Dominiquie Vandenberg, who appeared in the recent Triple Threat among its ensemble cast. Vandenberg is amazing in the film as he plays more of a silent type, letting his action do the talking for him. Having worked in various films in the past, including the lead in Johnson’s 2004 film Pit Fighter, this is without a doubt Vandenberg’s biggest and best role to date. Not only can Vandenberg bring a bit of a stern role and emotional range, he’s got the fighting skills to boot thanks to his experience in both martial arts and his military background.
Louis Mandylor, who had worked with Johnson on The Debt Collector (and its upcoming sequel) and Avengement, sticks to his natural Australian accent as Maxx’s former leader and lead baddie LeClerc. It is refreshing to see Mandylor play a villain who doesn’t have to go over the top and when the script calls for it, is quite skills in close quarter combat. In one of his final film roles before his passing this past February, Carmen Argenziano is the conscience of the group as Father Elias, the man who doesn’t judge Maxx, and offers him a place to stay and even offers a chance for him to do right by teaching some of the victimized villagers self-defense in hopes for them to stand up for themselves.
Luke LaFontaine and Malay Kim are in charge of the action scenes as respectively stunt coordinator and fight choreographer. Vandenberg is quite skilled in karate and gets to unleash loads of spinning kicks in his arsenal. In addition, he is quite skilled with the knife and has quite the knife duel against one of LeClerc’s goons in a fight that may bring Gangs of New York to mind as Vandenberg not only appeared in that film, but served as that film’s fight coordinator. Some of the action is very brutal and gets a bit gory but that’s okay for this brand of action film.
The Mercenary proves that Jesse V. Johnson is one of action cinema’s best filmmakers today. This is definitely Dominiquie Vandenberg’s shining moment as he proves to be stellar in the lead role. A must see for action fans.
WFG RATING: A-
Uncork’d Entertainment presents a War Dog Productions film in association with Evolutionary Films. Director: Jesse V. Johnson. Producer: Don Hollingshead. Writer: David Filmore. Cinematography: Casey McBeath. Editing: Matthew Lorentz.
Cast: Dominiquie Vandenberg, Louis Mandylor, Carmen Argenziano, Manny Alva, Brad Ashten, Robb Zbacnik, Alina Andrei, Jeremiah B. McQueen, Geordie Robinson, Luke LaFontaine, Robert Dill, Marilyn Sanabria, Nihan Gur.
The film will be available on DVD and Digital on January 7, 2020.