Steven Seagal is back to kick butt as he seeks absolution in this hard-hitting action thriller directed by Keoni Waxman.
Action star and 7th Dan Aikido expert Steven Seagal plays the Special Forces gun-for-hire “John Alexander”. Seagal’s co-star from “Belly of the Beast” Byron Mann plays his partner-in-crime “Chi”. Mann has trained in wushu and also worked with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez to sharpen up his kickboxing skills when he played “Ryu” in “Streetfighter”.
British soccer star turned film star Vinnie Jones plays the sick and twisted “Boss”, who likes to film himself brutally torturing his victims. Newcomer Adina Stetcu plays “Nadia” who turns to John Alexander for help. American mixed martial artist and professional wrestler Josh Barnett plays the bad government agent “Colt”. Barnett is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion.
A U.S. government agency hires specialist John Alexander to remove a suspected terrorist Kamaal. John’s investigation takes him and his partner, Chi, to the Ukraine. Tracking Kamaal to a mansion in Odessa, John coolly eliminates him.
During some downtime in a local bar, it is revealed that Chi is a former Triad member that John had saved, and Chi considers John as his blood brother. Whilst John and Chi are having a quiet drink, an escaped victim of the sadistic “Syndicate Boss” runs in crying for help, closely followed by three thugs. John does not like being told “it’s none of your business” by the thugs, and promptly makes it his business as he and Chi take down the thugs. Fearing for her life and with nowhere to go, the girl pleads with John to help her, which he reluctantly does. The girl, Nadia, explains that she and her sister Sofia are the victims of human trafficking, with Sofia having had sacrificed herself to The Boss so that Nadia could escape.
John is looking for absolution for all the bad things he has done in his life and decides to hunt down the sick and twisted Boss. However, it turns out The Boss is the one who ordered the hit on Kamaal, and John is about to get a burn notice from the government agency that gave him the mission. Can John find The Boss before the Syndicate find John and ultimately receive his absolution?
The movie gets into the action pretty swiftly when Seagal and Mann stealthily enter Kamaal’s mansion in Odessa. Initially it is Mann that gives us the nifty hand-to-hand combat, taking out the armed guards. Seagal stalks around the mansion, picking off sentries using his silenced pistol with calm efficiency. There is some good stunt work here from the dispatched henchmen as they crash through doors, tables and over balconies. Later, There is a great stunt when a bad guy is blown out of a second or third storey window, with a full body burn, and lands on a car on the street!
The audience does not have long to wait to see Seagal do what he does best. Interrupting Steven Seagal while he is trying to enjoy a single malt and a cigar is a decision three of the mob’s men learn to regret! Seagal is the master of efficient and effective close-quarter combat, and he has lost none of his edge. Mann also gets in on the action with his kickboxing style of fighting.
As we head into the third act of the film, Mann takes on two opponents at once with his street fighting, and takes no prisoners when he uses a kettle of boiling water and a butterfly knife to put them down.
When our heroes enter a nightclub to retrieve Nadia’s evidence, we are back to the tag team of Seagal’s smooth Aikido takedowns, and Mann’s brawling kickboxing.
For the film’s concluding action scenes, Mann demonstrates that even having his hands tied behind his back will not stop him from taking down a villain! Seagal returns to Special Forces mode, carefully manoeuvring around the villain’s house, taking out the guards with poised double-taps from his pistol.
Seagal and Chi finally confront Vinnie Jones and his two henchmen in the empty nightclub. The choreography does well to demonstrate the effectiveness of Seagal’s skills against punches and kicks, with the speed of each attack and counter-attack accelerating to blistering speeds. Meanwhile, Byron Mann and the 6′ 3″ Josh Barnett have a more traditional “David versus Goliath” kickboxing slugfest, with elements of Barnett’s MMA skills thrown in for good measure.
Much like the way he fights, Steven Seagal has been quietly and steadily making straight-to-DVD movies for a number of years. I haven’t seen many of his recent efforts, but watching “The Mercenary: Absolution” makes me wonder if it isn’t time for Seagal to return to the big screen?
Seagal is a different kind of action star. Recognised as a real-life expert at martial arts, and praised for his authentic portrayal of handling weapons, it is wrong to expect Steven Seagal to be leaping about performing somersaults and split kicks. He whispers his way through the film like Clint Eastwood in a Western, and is always coolly economical with his actions and his words. Where this film succeeds is that he has an engaging partner in Byron Mann, who can do all the leaping about, and do it well.
The bad guys are mostly just fodder for Seagal and Mann to take out, but Vinnie Jones does what he does best as the sadistic, snarling villain. If anything, I would like to have seen Vinnie get in more on the action.
The plot is a standard vehicle to move the audience from one confrontation to the next. The film is well shot and avoids the “shaky-cam” that plagues many modern action films. A lot of the violence is pretty graphic but not voyeuristic. The story is evenly paced over ninety minutes, as all good action films should be!
With Keanu Reeves recently making waves in “John Wick”, and Liam Neeson reinventing himself as an action star in the “Taken” movies, perhaps “The Mercenary: Absolution” can put Steven Seagal back up the pecking order!
- Filmed in Bucharest, Romania.
- Director Keoni Waxman has worked previously with Steven Seagal on “A Good Man”, “Force of Execution”, “Maximum Conviction”, “A Dangerous Man”, “The Keeper”, and the television series “True Justice”.
- “The Mercenary: Absolution” is former UFC Champion Josh Barnett’s feature film debut.
- Byron Mann is a qualified Californian lawyer, but gave it up to pursue his acting career.
- Steven Seagal is a master in Aikido and Kendo, and also holds black belts in Karate and Judo. He has also worked as a fully commissioned deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana for over twenty years!