August 3, 2014

Movie Review: The No Mercy Man

The post-Vietnam War/PTSD/revenge flick is not a mix that I am all that intimately familiar with. With that said, my limited experience puts Rolling Thunder at the top of the heap, that is a seriously awesome movie. By comparison, The No Mercy Man, which predates Rolling Thunder by a number of years, feels like the lite version. It is much like the relationship between Man from Deep River and Jungle Holocaust. This is not to speaking of any of these films, it just shows the development of early exercises in a style compared to the lengths that others take it to a little later. A progression in extreme, if you will.

The movie follows two paths. One path focuses on Olie Hand (Steve Sandor, who reminds me of Robert Z'Dar minus the chin), a young soldier just returned home from Vietnam. It is clear he has seen a lot of action and is sullen, withdrawn, and prone to flashbacks resulting in violent outbursts. He does have a couple soldier friends visit, and they seem a bit better adjusted, although they always seem ready for a scrap. The other path follows Prophet (Rockne Tarkington) and his gang of carnie folk on the run. They happen to have an incident at the Hand ranch that will intertwine their fates for the length of the movie.

The first hour or so is all build up. We alternate between the stories of Prophet and his gang getting their big score in line and Olie having trouble adjusting while his father fails to destined the problem. It all culminates when Prophet's gang makes their move and ends up at the ranch just as Olie's inability to cope snaps him back into soldier-killer mode. It is a violent finish that will leave its mark on all who survive.

This is a good film. It may be slow at times getting to where it needs to be, but it is also an effective exploration of the readjustment issues that soldiers who have seen a lot of action and have been trained to kill face when leaving combat and trying to reintegrate into civilian life. It may not have been explored as completely as it could and some characters are left a little too flat, but the seeds are there for what would come in movies to follow.

As I watched, I could not help but be reminded of Desperado, and wonder of this movie served as any inspiration for Robert Rodriguez. A the movie begins its build to the climax, a bartender as Olie to help keep an eye on things to prevent trouble. Olie really wants no part of this and calls his old buddies who still want to fight to come and help fight off the carnie gang. It is not unlike Banderas calling his mariachi buddies to town right before the big shoot out. Maybe it's just me.

The No Mercy Man is a solid movie. No, not great, but am effective start for the exploration of a soldier's psyche. It cannot be easy to go from that kind of experience to normal non-war time. It is worth spending some time with, you might be surprised by what you find. It has some depth that you an dig for, or just watch the surface and enjoy the exploitative nature. It also features Sid Haig in a small role, and who doesn't love that guy?


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