Peter Fonda recruits a group of hired guns to fight off rebels blocking the construction of a dam in the explosive 1988 Golan-Globus actioner Mercenary Fighters. With an all-star cast including Reb Brown, Ron O’Neal, and Robert DoQui the film sets out to be another mindless explosion-fest but redeems itself with a moral center nearly redeeming the bloodthirsty actions of the soldiers. Kino Lorber and Code Red bring the film to Blu-ray with a new 2k master but sadly no special features. As a Cannon Films fanatic and lover of 80’s action this one is Recommended.
In 1988 alone the powerhouse Golan-Globus Production company had three war films released which included Braddock: Missing in Action II, Platoon Leader, and Mercenary Fighters. The first two are clearly Vietnam adjacent making their release in the late 80’s a no-brainer for the company which was constantly cashing in on big names like Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff. With Mercenary Fighters we see Fonda climbing out of a career rut to play the ruggedly handsome mercenary recruiter Virelli. Having been in a weird mix of films leading up to this including Spasms, It’s All Right, My Friend, and Certain Fury I’m sure donning some sunglasses and hamming it up with machine guns was a welcome relief.
The film opens on the fictional Central African nation of Shinkasa where a new dam project is about to start construction. At a press conference, President Lumbala (Leslie Mongezi, Goodbye Bafana) is blindsided by reporters asking about a massacre of villagers at the hands of the nation’s army. The nervous Col. Kyemba (Robert DoQui, Robocop) steps in and assures everyone that those villagers were rebels out to stop the project. Behind closed doors, Lumbala learns that Kyemba’s trigger-happy soldiers were trying to move villagers away from the proposed floodplain. Naturally, the President wants this dealt with swiftly so he authorizes Kyemba to hire professionals to clean up the mess. However, when Virelli and his men start blasting away they uncover the corrupt truth behind their involvement and must take a stand.
Mercenary Fighters is a clean-cut parable wherein the guns-for-hire realize they’re not the good guys in the scenario and must make a choice: Money or Morals? Thankfully the film delivers on its title offering the action-packed story of a group of wardogs out for the highest bidder. The film sticks to its blazing guns while attempting to balance the morality tale of genocide at the hands of the white man. Political moves and the tribal connections within the warring factions frame the story outside of the enormous action set pieces. Gorgeous helicopter shots and huge explosions are coupled with well-crafted shootouts.
The cast is full of big names who all deliver the goods. Reb Brown (Strike Commando) is T.J the central character who ties the narrative together as a conflicted freedom fighter with Rambo-level aspirations. Super Fly I mean, Ron O’Neal is having a blast here cracking-wise while raining bullets on the rebels as crop duster pilot Cliff. Peter Fonda is having fun but stays keyed in enough to get the job done. He looks amazing with his long hair, sunglasses, and badass attitude. My favorite line encapsulates his motivations for starring in the film, “I’m gonna find out if this job’s over. I’ve got a house payment to make.” Peter, you said the quiet part out loud!
The supporting cast is all on board chewing scenery while sweating in tents and basking in the glory of explosions. While never appearing like a low-budget endeavor Mercenary Fighters does well when the action is moving the story along or when the small bits of character humor elicits a chuckle from the cheesy jokes. While it may not be the best Golan-Globus effort from 1988 it gets the job done with an array of exciting moments, memorable characters, and that satisfying gut-punch of late 80’s action movie machismo.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Mercenary Fighters is brought to Blu-ray thanks to Code Red and Kino Lorber. The Region A BD-25 disc is housed in a standard blue keepcase. Loading the disc presents the Code Red and Kino Lorber logos before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options.
Mercenary Fighters blasts onto Blu-ray thanks to Code Red and Kino Lorber. Presented in the film’s original 1.85.1 this disc features an HD image taken from a new 2K master. Fine film grain levels hold steady producing a film-like presentation without DNR or compression issues. Primaries are bold throughout the feature with greens and reds prominently evident in explosions and landscapes. Lush jungle settings appear with vibrant colors but minimal texture. Where we do get some fine detail is within costuming and makeup which provides a clear look at the war-torn mercenaries. Even skin tones appear though some softening is apparent in medium shots. Black levels are solid as expected. Some detail is present within shadow and dark scenes, especially the touching exchange between TJ and Warwick.
Dirt, specks, and lines appear frequently but rarely detract from the overall presentation. Flickering can be an issue during some establishing shots when the team takes their first run at some rebels. While this new 2k master suffers a bit from source damage its a pleasing HD image for fans of the film and those collecting Cannon Group titles.
Mercenary Fighters blasts its way onto Blu-ray with an aggressive DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo audio track. Dialogue is clean though exchanges can often wander between the channels affecting overall clarity. Music tracks are bright and busy keeping up with the action packed visuals. English subtitles are available.
There are no special features other than an array of trailers touting flicks just as insane as Mercenary Fighters. It's worth a look to discover the next great passable action flick to add to your collection!
Mercenary Fighters is the perfect 80’s action movie to see on an afternoon when your dad is in town. With a stacked cast and plenty of exciting scenes the film coasts on its ability to avoid the clunky moralizing with ease. It’s filled with snappy one-liners, memorable characters, and runs just over 90 minutes. What more could you want? Kino Lorber and Code Red bring Mercenary Fighters to Blu-ray from a new 2k master sourced from a rough print that is still better than the previous DVD-R released years ago. While no special features grace this release I still say it's Recommended.