Starring: Steven Seagal, Vinnie Jones, Byron Mann
Contract killer John Alexander (Seagal) lives a life in the shadows haunted by his past, but when he encounters a young woman (Adina Stetcu) on the run from an extremely dangerous mob boss (Vinnie Jones), John finds himself torn between doing what he should do and not get involved or help and find some salvation and absolution for the sins in his past life.
Now I think it is safe to say my synopsis implies a far deeper level of protagonist catharsis and redemption than can actually be found in the plot of Mercenary: Absolution, say perhaps for one glaring clue; it is a Steven Seagal film!
In what is a sort of sequel to last year’s A Good Man (well, it features Seagal as the same character), we open with Seagal’s John explaining in some mumbling voiceover a bunch of clichés about how he has been a bad man that has done bad things and is beyond redemption blah, blah, blah. Well of course the question everyone is desperate to know is whether good ol’ Steve finds his redemption, which is unfortunately usually a sex scene in which a naked woman half his age rides a Seagal still wearing his coat! Well, we don’t quite get that in A Good Man (thank God!), but the usual predictable Seagal narrative does (reliably) ensue.
Now, I always state when reviewing a Seagal film (which is depressingly rather often as despite now being in 60’s, he is prolific!), that the usual expectations and standards that one applies to most films should be thrown out the window along with a few of the bad guys casually tossed by a miraculously unflustered Seagal.
Well I would argue that Mercenary: Absolution is his best film since Maximum Conviction, and this is for exactly for the same reasons as why that was half decent (well, by Seagal’s abysmally low standards). First and foremost; Ignore the fact the plot suggests an actual character arc and remember this is 21st century Seagal.
Now, remember I said he is prolific in terms of films these days; well that is because the now goateed one probably only has to do a single day of filming as he often has stunt doubles to film most of his scenes and, in the case of Absolution, has a younger actor to do a bulk of the fight scenes. Like in Maximum Conviction when Seagal let Steve Austin do most of the fighting, in Absolution he lets Byron Mann play his loyal right hand man and kill most of the supposed bad guys. Though he may not be a particular good actor, Mann certainly looks the part, and there is actually a half decent and almost endearing bromance between him and Seagal which only makes the film that bit more enjoyable. Meanwhile we have the usual Seagal fight scenes from time to time in which the fast editing and (not so) clever camera angles allow the seemingly indestructible Seagal to not break a sweat, change facial expression, take his coat off or bleed. Though, is that not part of the fun these days?
As the story goes along, Absolution is almost reassuring predictable, but yet it is actually watchable (with the added context of Seagal specific expectations of course) and regular Seagal director Keoni Waxman creates some decent fight sequences (well, the ones involving Byron Mann). Vinnie Jones is predictably terrible as the film’s villain, but his usual over the top performance actually makes things a bit more watchable, and if you come home from the pub and need some mindless Seagal nonsense, then Mercenary: Absolution will probably do the trick if you cannot get hold of Under Siege or On Deadly Ground. As I stated earlier; it is all about context!
Well, it is Seagal, what do you expect?!? Expect the usual rubbish and a blatantly passed it but yet seemingly indestructible Seagal being obviously aided by editing, but with the right expectation and context, Mercenary: Absolution is (just about) passable.
By Seagal standards: 5/10
By normal standards: 2/10