I imagine the Asylum has wanted to mockbuster “The Expendables” since the first movie came out, but they ran into a problem – Stallone had already hired every washed up former action star, rendering their traditional casting methods moot. So, it remained un-Asylumed until someone had the great idea of making the cast women! And here we are with “Mercenaries”.
After a joke which I presume is at the expense of the “Expendables 3” (about watches with GPS trackers in them) the cast greeting comes thick and fast. Brigitte Nielsen is the baddie Ulrika, trying to take over an unnamed former Soviet satellite state by kidnapping the US President’s daughter; and hired to take her on are four women who you’ll either sort of recognise or cheer in delight for, depending on how wasted your youth was.
Cynthia Rothrock, star of many many terrible martial arts movies, doesn’t even fight in this one, being the boss of the team, and the person who offers 4 inmates presidential pardons if they’ll help out Uncle Sam. Vivica A Fox is probably the best known of them, and Zoe Bell was hired more to do with her being one of the best stuntwomen of all time than being great at acting. Nicole Bilderback and Kristianna Loken, on the other hand, are both still in their prime and can act, so perhaps they were taking a punt on this becoming a surprise hit.
The thing is, this film is sort of good fun. Yes, it’s cheap as hell, and they couldn’t afford many big fight scenes, but it makes sense and gets from A to B reasonably and fairly quickly – sad as it is that a film that achieves basic competence needs to be singled out for praise. Our four heroes infiltrate Ulrika’s compound, discover a bit of sex trafficking, try and rescue the President’s daughter and prevent the bad guys from making off with a couple of ICBMs. No muss, no fuss.
The problem is everything else. I don’t think all female-dominated films need to be written and directed by women, but with seemingly no female involvement in anything non-acting, there can be a tendency for it to not really sound “real”. Weirdly, we’ve covered the entirety of the writing career of Edward DeRuiter (“3 Musketeers” and “Two-Headed Shark Attack”), and a lot of the directing career of Christopher Olen Ray (ensuring a second generation of poor quality filmmaking, after dad Fred) and while I’ve never noticed it before, the two of them seem entirely cloth-eared when it comes to women.
An example, I hear you ask? Bilderback – who despite being by a distance the best actor involved in this movie, so good that it’s a shame she’s doing this, but gets saddled with all the worst dialogue – says at one point “Let’s go PMS from hell on this place”. My wife, relatively quiet to this point, turned to me and said “women don’t talk like that!” Vivica also expresses the desire, late on in the film, to “fuck George Clooney…with a strap-on”. The banter is even worse than in the Expendables movies, a phrase I never thought I’d have to write.
That’s not all of it, though – see what happens to the sex-traffic women; and the weird equation of strong women always being lesbians (although this film is a long way from being the only offender at that). It doesn’t take a feminist to figure out that the men in charge of making this film might reasonably be said to have a few issues with women. What makes it even weirder is the women are pretty good at their jobs – apart from being rotten shots, a trait they share with everyone in this movie – and their gender isn’t really an issue when it comes to fighting. For a cleverer skewering of this than I could manage, “From The Women’s Desk” give it a great review.
So, apart from the banter being terrible and it being a fairly poor portrayal of women and it being cheap and how not much stuff really happens and how the weakest actor of the main four has to do most of the acting, it’s a pretty fun movie. It seems from IMDB that a sequel is in post-production already, with the same writer, director and everyone who survived this one returning.
Rating: thumbs in the middle
GERALD WEBB ASYLUM WATCH: Yes. Rothrock’s assistant. Good to see you Gerald!