It’s laudable that Van Damme has (sort of) tried to break away from his action-hero image through the film, which actually takes a few jabs at the genre at his expense. His comic skills might not be as sharp as his kicks but full points for stretching
Story: After his son’s diplomatic immunity is revoked due to an impostor arms dealer, former black ops-turned-soldier of fortune, Richard ‘The Mist’ Brumere, returns to Paris to save his son and draw out the ones behind the crime.
Review: In the middle of a high-speed chase in Paris, Richard Brumere (Jean-Claude Van Damme) discovers that his son Archibald (Samir Decazza), whom he has apparently never met, doesn’t know how to drive and squeals like a baby when put into pressure situations. This is not something that the soldier of fortune, who has prioritised national security over his family, approves of. In almost a kickback in another scene, when Brumere spills his inner feelings about why he has been absent in his son’s life, talking about the tortures and his undying love for his mother, Archibald shuts him down by asking where he was when she died of cancer. The two scenes bring out two different sides of Van Damme – one carcaturish and another emotional – both unfamiliar territory for the Muscles from Brussels. But that’s also what makes the audience want to invest their time in David Charhon’s French action-comedy, to see how far Van Damme can ‘stretch’ from his usual avatars.
And avatars, Brumere, who is known as The Mist, has many. The former secret black ops agent, who currently works as a mercenary, is forced to return to Paris after his son Archibald gets into trouble. Archibald, thanks to his father, had diplomatic immunity and had been living under a false identity. However, after a minister mistakes him for an arms dealer, his protection is revoked and the government hunts him. Brumere has to save his son and also prove his innocence by tracking the real people behind the act.
While the action scenes and humour in the film don’t really have too much going for them, surprisingly it’s the father-son bonding scenes amid these that actually give the cartoonish film the gravitas. It’s laudable that Van Damme has tried to break away from his action-hero image through the film, which actually takes a few jabs at the genre at his expense. Van Damme’s comic skills might not be as sharp as his kicks but full points for trying, even wearing a silly wig to seem like a woman in a scene.
While there’s only so many laughs that Van Damme’s dour face and evident unease in the role can provide, the supporting cast especially Assa Sylla and Djimo as Archibald’s dopey buddies Dalila and Momo, along with Alban Ivanov as the clumsy bureaucrat Alexandre sustain the humour in the film. Djimo, especially, get the best tongue-in-cheek lines, like when his shunning a room full of White people who mistake him for a waiter or when he asks a worried Brumere, who informs him that they will have $30 million wired in a day by a Russian crime boss, the name of the app they are using.
Also, it’s not until these supporting characters enter the mix that the movie becomes enjoyable. Most of the first half is spent in setting up the myth of Brumere, which really doesn’t help, especially due to the lighter tone of the film and also because it extends the duration by a good 20 minutes.
Verdict: Van Damme’s The Last Mercenary, which is streaming on Netflix, has the actor stretching himself in a comic avatar but it doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot for an engaging action-comedy.