Don’t let Olivier Gruner’s superb DTV action exploits remain in obscurity for too long, this guy ultimately slaps!
Olivier Gruner. French special forces, turned kickboxing champ, turned action movie workhorse of the 90s. By workhorse, I mean he was legit one of the busiest leading men in the DTV world, pumping out so many gems and it has been a such a good time going back through them.
I recently brought you UAMC readers my review of the Isaac Florentine-directed Savate and this time around, let’s take a look at another Gruner flick that still holds up – 1996’s Mercenary.
UAMC Reviews ‘Mercenary’ (1996)
If you ever wanted to see the late John Ritter do stunts and flex his action chops, this is the movie for you! Okay, I might have oversold him in that department slightly, but he does get in on the action and proves what a great actor he was, one we lost far too soon.
Ritter co-stars as a very rich and renowned businessman. What a way to introduce his character at a big public event where a group of terrorists crash the party and slaughter everyone, including Ritter’s wife Lara Harris (No Man’s Land).
The extremely underrated Martin Kove (The Karate Kid/’Rambo II) plays the main bad guy, the mercenary that was hired by an Islamic terrorist group to lead the strike. Whatever he is in it, Kove plays it perfectly and nails the persona, with the thick accent and is just a cold hearted SOB.
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Olivier Gruner as Capt. Karl ‘Hawk’ May
The first time we see Gruner’s ‘Hawk’, he in the middle of a hostage rescue mission – the young girl played by Jaime Pressly (Desert Heat) in her first ever on screen role. To save her, Gruner plows through an entire building of guys and it is nothing short of awesome. Stabbing people in the eyes, slitting throats and throws in several lightning fast kicks. Gruner wore multiple hats for this film, serving as the fight choreographer as well.
Gruner’s squad in this is like his own version of the A-Team. Veteran actors Ronert Kulp (I Spy) and Ed Lauter (Raw Deal/Death Wish 3) bring their A-game with memorable performances. One of these two turns out to be working for the other side in a twist that is revealed at the end. I will let you watch the movie to see if you can figure out which one it is. Action B-movie staple Nils Allen Stewart (Bloodsport 2/Double Dragon/Fist of the North Star) is also on the team, kickin ass right alongside Gruner.
Ritter is set on revenge and eventually is able to hire Gruner and company to go after Kove and the whole terrorist organization. The catch is, he not only hires them, he wants to come with them! So they train Ritter to get him ready to tag along.
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How Ultimate is the Action?
The whole film is fast paced and very entertaining. It doesn’t take long for them to find Kove, but he knew they were coming and ends up capturing them. Gruner goes head to head with Kove in a couple cool fight scenes… the first is a knife fight in the middle of a ring of fire in front of everyone and then a climatic sword fight as well. The rest of the film sees Gruner and Ritter mounting their escape, that turns into a pretty extensive behind enemy lines-type situation.
Plenty of action, lots of shooting, Gruner picking off the enemy one by one. Not to mention, a pretty crazy dune buggy chase that leads them to them riding off of a cliff. Gruner and Ritter go through hell together, both having their heroic moments. The finale sees them finally getting to confront the guy who betrayed the whole team.
Mercenary achieves a lot for a DTV type film. A very ambitious action adventure, that should have catapulted Gruner to even bigger stardom. Do yourself a favor and go seek out Mercenary. It is available on Amazon Prime or if you love physical media like I do, the DVD is readily available.