x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mercenaries is quite the disaster movie

Casting the Titanic star Billy Zane cannot save this film from being a total flop.

Billy Zane stars in a new film called Mercenaries. Photo Courtesy Ascot Elite Home Entertainment
Billy Zane stars in a new film called Mercenaries. Photo Courtesy Ascot Elite Home Entertainment

Director: Paris Leonti
Starring: Robert Fucilla, Billy Zane, Rob James-Collier
*

Did you enjoy The Expendables? You did? How would you like to see it remade with no stars, almost no money and all the action-packed excitement of an overcast paintball weekend?

That's what this inept Brit cash-in has to offer. It's the story of four former special services men who are drafted in to rescue a US ambassador from the clutches of a comedically maniacal, eyepatch-wearing Serbian warlord.

Doubling for the region, which we are told has undergone a military coup, is what appears to be a large garden in the south of England. Doubling for dialogue is simply the soldiers' head-numbingly banal banter and every action movie cliche in the book. A glance at Mercenaries' IMDb page is endlessly more entertaining than the movie itself. Take the director Paris Leonti, who until 2009 was known as "Barry" and whose glittering CV includes Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love ... on which he worked in the "transportation department".

What really gives the game away, though, are the actors. The film's most (and perhaps only) recognisable face is Billy Zane, as the weary US colonel who assigns the team their mission. Sure, his star has fallen dramatically since appearing in Titanic, but how he ended up here is anyone's guess. Then there's the lead, the charisma-free Londoner Robert Fucilla, whose past credits include the notoriously awful Danny Dyer mob drama Pimp.

Most egregious is the Downton Abbey regular Rob James-Collier, whose Texan accent is so ridiculous, it's almost as though he was attempting to end his career. Even the things that should be simple somehow prove a challenge for Leonti. For a film that involves little more than scenes of men shooting guns, making sure the firearms don't sound like clicking toy weapons should have been a priority.

There's no reason why low-budget should mean low-quality. Many filmmakers - British ones in particular - have shown that financial limitations can actually be extremely liberating, as those involved come up with new and ingenious ways of telling a story. Things that shouldn't necessarily cost the Earth - such as decent scriptwriting and capable performances - can drive the drama, rather than expensive stars or visual effects.

But the casting of Zane betrays the filmmakers' intentions. It seems that having a Hollywood name to place on the poster was more important than ensuring that the film was actually watchable.