Mercenary 2: Thick and Thin (1998) – Review

3 Stars

B-Movie Action star Olivier Gruner and talented indie filmmaker turned actor Robert Townsend costar in this amusing action film with a taste for the absurd and quirky. Directed with flair by longtime Australian helmer Philippe Mora Mercenary 2 is a competent exercise in the overpopulated straight to DVD action/adventure genera. Townsend is far too talented of a director (Hollywood Shuffle) in his own right to be reduced to running around a jungle playing second fiddle to Gruner. Although the pairing is far more successful than one would imagine. They display a relaxed screen chemistry, the producers were obviously angling for a racial divergent ‘buddy picture’ and Townsend is a nice reprieve from the likes of Eddie Murphy or Chris Tucker. Character actor Nicholas Turturro appears along with Sam Bottoms and 1990’s sensation Claudia Christian as a vengeful former business parter of Townsend’s.

The routine plot tells the story of a Mercenary (Gruner) hired to retrieve a wealthy businessman (Townsend) from the clutches of an evil central american general. While the story is strictly B-Movie fare Mora is a director that has roots firmly planted in the oz-plotation sub-genera from decades ago, that off-beat influence is evident in sequences that range from using and burning pot plants to escape a group of tribesmen and the antics of a Native American bad-guy that wears his deceased son’s blood as war paint. These touches may sound peculiar but they actually add to the unique personality the film develops as it rolls along. The plot throws in double and then triple crosses until the story becomes a guessing game of who’s on what side. Fortunately the energy and fun generated by Mora and his cast is enough to propel the film through its the rough spots.

Mercenary 2 isn’t original on any level but seen as part of a sub genera its a fine example of how to deliver a entertaining picture on a minimal budget. Gruner is at his most appealing here, a former military man in real life he looks the part of a special forces member turned mercenary. Though his acting is severely strained in a (once again quirky) sequence in which his character revels that he is terrified of horses. These lapses aside Gruner is a very natural presence onscreen. It’s a shame he didn’t continue the franchise further this character seems like a signature role for the square-jawed actor/athlete.

Director: Philippe Mora
Stars: Olivier Gruner, Robert Townsend, Nicholas Turturro

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