'The Last Mercenary' review: still kicking

At 60, Jean-Claude Van Damme has accumulated about as many features as he has birthdays. Noting this prolificacy, the oddly convincing ...


At 60, Jean-Claude Van Damme has accumulated about as many features as he has birthdays. Noting this prolificacy, the oddly convincing “JCVD” (2008) showed the Belgian murderer ruminating on the options available for an aging action star.

“The Last Mercenary (The Last Mercenary)” coming to Netflix as one of those options, with Van Damme demonstrating a playful awareness of himself and the genre that nurtured him. As Richard Brumère, a famous secret service agent who allegedly once shot a rhino with his bare hands, the actor is in great shape. It might take a little longer for him to shoot a stunt, but thanks to Thierry Arbogast’s skill with a camera, the seams of the action are barely visible.

It’s also because Richard prefers hands and feet to guns. And when his ex-son (Samir Decazza) is falsely accused of arms trafficking, Richard has to return to Paris after 25 years of absence to put things right. It will require multiple disguises and international locations (the movie was shot mostly in Ukraine), a new batch of sidekicks and, possibly, a lot of stretching.

Burlesque fusion of terrorism, stolen identity and father-son healing, the plot (of the director, David Charhon, and Ismaël Sy Savané) is inflated and sentimental. The middle section sags and not all performances skip. (Although Nassim Lyes poses it with a shovel to play a villain obsessed with “Scarface”.) But the fight scenes have wit, and Van Damme delivers his lines with just the right amount of weary good humor.

“You have aged”, a former colleague (played by none other than Miou-Miou) observes, and it is a testament to the tone of the film that the commentary, far from being a burn, is almost a caress.

The Last Mercenary (The Last Mercenary)
Unclassified. In French, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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