Monday, May 26, 2014

Expect No Mercy

Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi team on-screen for the third time (after TC-2000 and TALONS OF THE EAGLE), but they sure ain’t Gibson and Glover.

If you’re wondering what to expect from EXPECT NO MERCY, it stars Blanks and Merhi, it’s Canadian, and the plot revolves around virtual reality. You’re welcome—now you can move on to something else. But since I’m still here and have already subjected myself to the merciless inanity of EXPECT NO MERCY, I may as well continue.

Justin (Blanks) and Eric (producer/star Merhi) are government agents sent inside the Virtual Arts Academy run by Warbeck (TV Tarzan Wolf Larson, looking like Shaun Cassidy), who seems more cult leader than martial arts instructor. To compress twenty years worth of experience into a two-year program, Warbeck uses virtual reality to train his students. Instead of facing off against real opponents, they don headgear and “fight” ninja, samurai, and…clowns? It isn’t explained how or why this could possibly work, but Vicki (Laurie Holden, now a regular on THE WALKING DEAD), who seems to be the creator of the software, does a good job selling the premise, mainly with her smile.

But the VR angle isn’t why the agents are undercover. Warbeck also heads an assassination ring using some of his students as hitmen. His latest target is a government witness named Goldberg (Sam Moses), whom millionaire Bromfield (‘50s leading man Halsey, an old hat at this sort of nonsense) has hired Warbeck to kill. Sketchy plotting has Warbeck’s men kidnapping Vicki (on the good guys’ side) after their attack on Goldberg fails and luring Justin and Eric back to the academy so Warbeck can…blow it up? Why?

Merhi crony J. Stephen Maunder (TIGERS CLAWS II and III) wrote the screenplay, which is very light on story, but heavy on fighting, which is fine for this type of film. Unfortunately, the acting is horrible (Holden is okay though) and the R-rated action scenes shot without any perceptible style or grace. Worse are the visual effects, which need to be a lot better than this. It doesn’t appear as though Maunder, director Zale Dalen, Merhi, or anyone else involved had any idea how virtual reality works, and Dalen’s staging of the VR scenes is patently absurd, to be kind.

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