Review of the film “Mercenary” – an ambiguous thriller with Chris Pine as a deceived soldier

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James Reed (Chris Pine) is fired from the US Army without looking at his military awards or the handshake of the president himself – all the fault of the medication in his blood, which he takes for pain in an injured knee. Left without a livelihood with a loan behind him, he agrees to the proposal of his comrade (Ben Foster) and get a job in an underground CIA structure, consisting entirely of the same poor soldiers abandoned by the army. Only on the first mission everything goes wrong, and for some reason James is trying to eliminate his own people. All paths are cut off, there is nothing to do – just fight for life in the hope of seeing the family again.

In fishlessness, as is well known, cancer is also a fish. And in a state of complete absence of any loud pictures and mediocre (if not more) action movie with Chris Payne – quite a noticeable premiere. Although in any other case, “Mercenary”, it seems, should not be mentioned: not for nothing that this film, which is released in Russia even earlier than in his homeland, appeared on screens without any marketing. It stars not the last actors for Hollywood (except for Pine, the same Ben Foster, Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Marsan and Gillian Jacobs), and the director’s name is intriguing at first: Tariq Saleh began his career with an unusual animation “Metropia”, then filmed epics. “Wild West World” and “Ray Donovan”. But this does not help the film at all: it comes out without noise, in a complete vacuum, and in a week its existence will most likely be forgotten by almost everyone who was (un) lucky to watch it.

Here, however, not everything is clearly bad. The first act of the film hints that a very curious movie may follow – a quiet, almost silent drama about a soldier who is mired in gray life and obsessions: in his spare time he disassembles and assembles a gun, climbs on the roof in the middle of the night to do something “Fix” and with a sad look removes voice messages from collectors. “The Mercenary” initially moves somewhere in the direction of “Storm Lord” Catherine Bigelow and, although not offering anything new on the subject of post-traumatic stress disorder, talentedly shows the world through the eyes of a man who can not find a place among cozy suburban houses. Saleh’s awkward directing is especially helpful here – his camera shoots the characters as if with an overly mechanical, inanimate eye. This is probably how a person who exists “on a machine gun” perceives the reality around him.

But then everything breaks down. As soon as the film turns into an adrenaline thriller about a devoted soldier, all the weakest sides of “Mercenary” come out. It turns out that the same “uncomfortable” directing is not an intentional artistic move at all, but a consequence of banal inexperience or even incompetence. In action scenes, the characters are teleported through space from frame to frame, it is almost impossible to follow their movements due to clumsy editing, and invented banal scenes are very boring: people either fiddle in a closed narrow space, or stand on the street and just each other shoot, in one scene Chris Pine runs against the background of a concrete wall, until the enemies desperately can not get on it from a few meters. And even in the absolutely calm scenes of the dialogues, Saleh for some reason breaks the rule of the cameraman’s “eight” and constantly confuses the viewer with how the characters are positioned relative to each other. And it doesn’t look, again, in a conscious way, like in some “Film Rehearsal” by Takashi Miike. This looks like a mistake by a VGIK freshman.

As soon as the stakes rise, it becomes clear that the film was invented very lazily. Chris Pine’s character is entirely determined by the annoying daddy issues – he just “does not want to be like his father”, and all the minor characters look more like video game NPCs: appear to give the protagonist a quest or post a little exposure, and then suddenly disappear. James Reed’s adventures are that he cosplays ninja turtles in the Berlin sewers, and the culmination of the whole action is a minute shootout, at the end of which the hero simply enters the house and finishes the already wounded “boss”. It is clear that any film, if desired, can be described by such devaluing proposals and make it sound simpler than it really is. But in the case of the Mercenary, it sincerely seems that he is written in such phrases: to be a soldier is sad, the government is lying, the family is the main thing.

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