Richard Gear and Kim Basinger headline Richard Pearce’s 1986 sweaty sleazy action/thriller No Mercy. With Jeroen Krabbé as the knife-wielding villain, this back-country bayou flick may be a bit clunky but it’s ultimately a pretty slick and entertaining flick. Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives this film its second outing on Blu-ray with the same rough transfer, but great audio, and a new interview with Krabbé. Worth A Look
Tough as nails Chicago undercover detective Eddie Jillette (Richard Gere) plays it by the book until the book doesn’t work - then he writes his own chapter. While posing as a hitman-for-hire to a New Orleans snob and his beautiful companion Michel (Kim Basinger), Jillette’s partner is murdered by the knife-wielding underworld psychopath Losado (Jeroen Krabbé). Traveling to New Orleans to get the guy that gutted his partner, Jillette will have to navigate corrupt cops, crooked lawyers, and deadly bayou swamps before his personal brand of justice is served.
Richard Pearce’s No Mercy is that grungy delightful sort of thriller that you can practically smell. From the dirty Chicago city streets and stockyards to the humid muddy swamps of New Orleans, the odor of this movie is thick. Unfortunately, the plot and characters are pretty thin by comparison. Working from a script by Jim Carabatsos, Pearce directs the action and his actors well setting up several tense moments and scenarios but squanders its best setup as a would-be Defiant Ones update with Gere and Basinger chained together at the wrist trudging through swamp water evading a gang of killers.
The mid-80s weren’t very kind for Richard Gere. After terrific turns in An Officer and a Gentleman and American Gigolo, a string of flops would follow. Gere would turn in energized passionate performances for pieces that just didn’t match his enthusiasm. No Mercy falls into this camp. While Basinger is a terrific and attractive match, the film’s by-the-numbers cliche-riddled plot doesn’t do them any favors. Their natural sexual chemistry keeps your attention on the screen as a limp climax and a comically dressed Jeroen Krabbé chews the scenery.
As I alluded to previously, the film was at its best when Basinger and Gere were handcuffed together. It’s a midway plot development that should have carried through to the finale with Krabbé’s Losado and his heavily armed minions in pursuit through the bayou. Instead, we get a pretty routine firey final stand sequence that makes little sense and simply checks off the boxes playing to audience expectations instead of offering any exciting surprises.
But all is not lost. As clunky and clumsy as No Mercy certainly is, I admit it’s wildly entertaining. Gere is playing his role as Jillette to the hilt easily outpacing the film’s middling script. Basinger gets to be more than just the attractive blonde simply waiting around to cash that Batman check playing her part with sultry sexuality with genuine innocence. And while he may look like he stole one of Sam Smith’s outfits and forgot to inflate it, Jeroen Krabbé delivers one of his most menacing (of many) villains prior to his turn in The Living Day Lights and The Punisher. His oversized storm coat may be a bit comical, but I loved that he regularly guts and slits people's throats throughout the film but never cleans the blade for a truly scary character trait.
It’s sweaty, it's sultry, and like I said you can practically smell this movie. No Mercy could have been better with some tweaks and adjustments for the final act, but it delivers in the realm of simple uncomplicated entertainment. When it works, it’s great. When it stumbles, it’s a bit silly. In addition to the main trio of actors, the film also sports some solid appearances by George Dzundza, Bruce McGill, with William Atherton perfecting his now iconic douchebag-you-want-to-punch character. A late night cable staple, if you haven’t caught up with No Mercy yet, it’s certainly worth popping corn and turning out some lights for.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Making its second appearance on Blu-ray, No Mercy picks up a new Region Free BD-50 release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Housed in a standard case with identical slipcover artwork, the disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Since I never picked up Millcreek’s 2020 Blu-ray, I had to scour the interwebs for some screenshots to compare from and it looks to me that KLSC was more or less saddled with the same middling 1.78:1 1080p transfer supplied by Sony. While not a complete bust, it’s not crisp, clean, or minty fresh. Details can be intermittently razor sharp and crisp or soft and unappealing. Likewise, film grain can appear well rendered and natural or gloppy and smeary. Given the film’s locations, colors only see small bursts of bright bold primaries, otherwise, it’s fairly dark, drag, muddy brown. Black levels are okay, not great. There are a few sequences with some notable depth and nice inky blacks but much of the time it can appear more of a deep brown than black. Film elements are in overall decent shape with only some slight speckling to report. Not the best, far from the worst, certainly could be better with a fresh scan and some TLC.
On the audio side, this release scores an overall impressive DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Dialog is handled with ease as there are several soft conversational pieces as well as full-throated shootouts, explosions, and chase sequences. The big final shootout is particularly impactful allowing for small quiet sounds to get their due attention as well as the concussive shotguns and roaring fire. Alan Silvestri delivers a moody and atmospheric score that adds great tension and excitement to the key moments and enhances the overall soundscape. Keep an ear out and you’ll pick up some motifs that’d later be recycled into some of his other action film scores, namely Predator 2.
As far as bonus features go, we don’t get a lot but the big draw is a very entertaining new interview with Jeroen Krabbé. It’s not very long but the actor got to dish on his career a bit and how this was his first real big English film. After that, we see the standard KLSC trailer gallery of semi-related films.
No Mercy is far from being the best sleazy sweaty 80s thriller, but it is a fun sleazy sweaty 80s thriller. The film largely stands on the weight of its obviously attractive leads with the script and plot doing the minimum to keep your focus. Certainly entertaining for a night in, but not the best or most memorable thriller of the ages. KLSC gives No Mercy its second run on Blu-ray sporting what looks to be the same middling transfer, a solid audio mix, and only a new short interview with the film’s villain to buttress the extras. If you’re in for 80s trillers, No Mercy on Blu-ray is Worth A Look