Expect No Mercy

Director:Zale Dalen                                     
Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Wolf Larson

Seems that even after 30 or so years of Canadian content rules, Canadian TV stations are still struggling to find enough "certifiably Canadian" content to broadcast. This probably explains why the Canadian movie Expect No Mercy was broadcast in my area on two separate television stations in my area in one week. It also seems that Canadian TV stations are still struggling to find enough "certifiably Canadian" content that people will actually watch. This probably explains why both of these television stations broadcast Expect No Mercy between midnight and dawn, instead of during prime time.

Like Lethal Tender, Expect No Mercy is a Canadian movie (also by the Alliance/Atlantis owned Le Monde) disguised as an American movie, with enough American actors to make it sellable world-wide, and with enough Canadian cast/crew to qualify for the label "certifiably Canadian" for Canadian TV needing to fill a quota. Now, I don't object when a Canadian movie does this (because, face it, distinctly Canadian movies have a bad rap), but I do object when the "poverty-stricken" makers of such profitable movies claim they are working for Canadian culture, so give us more government money please. My biggest object, though, is when one of these movies is bad. I wish all that explanation revealed in the first paragraph would extend to the narrative of this movie, because Expect No Mercy is an incoherent, as well as a sloppily made, mess.

How do I hate thee? Let me name the ways. First, the required plot description, though I have the problem of hardly being able to understood Expect No Mercy's plot. Seems there's this murderous megalomaniac by the name of Warbeck (Larson) who runs this complex that is part VR center and part martial arts school. In his spare time, he runs his own hitman squad, which he controls from his desk via a satellite/computer system, and remote cameras. This leads to a supposedly spectacular credits sequence where the computer screen displays mid '80s computer graphics from a P.O.V. shot weaving through the city streets, into the country, and to the home of the target. Warbeck must have a 386 processor, for it would seem that a regular computer would be so fast, it would show the destination immediately onscreen.

Warbeck's mischief hasn't gone unnoticed, for the F.B.I. has a witness in protective custody - though what the witness knows about Warbeck, or his relationship with Warbeck, never is properly explained. So, Warbeck gets arrested, because the F.B.I. has what they need, and the movie ends, right? Nope. Though the F.B.I. has the evidence they need, I guess they want to be extra sure, for they approach Justin (Blanks), a martial arts trainer who works for them. Justin agrees to go undercover and join the school - even though the F.B.I. already as another guy, Eric (Merhi), in the complex. Meanwhile, Warbeck (who has the requisite long blond hair and black clothing) makes his requisite balcony speeches to his students, and Justin and Eric stay undercover, taking time to get into a scrap with some smartass students in the complex's cafeteria (consisted of a room full of a few tables, chairs, and two tables with a bowl of fruit salad), and fight computer generated opponents, which are programmed to deliver actual pain to students hooked up to the machines.

These scenes are among the worst in this already bad movie. The computer generated background sequences are extremely unspectacular, and the combatants (computer and human) have bright, shiny halos around them. The color scheme is consisted of gaudy, nausea inducing colors. And there's a basic flaw in the idea of fighting opponents only in one's mind; there's no tension. The opponents aren't real, so we don't feel excitement, or feel fear about the stereotypical opponents (gang member, samurai, etc.) the computer generates. As well, shots showing the students wearing the VR headgear and punching and kicking into nothing are unintentionally funny.

When the lead actors step out of the VR chambers and start to rip-off Enter The Dragon's climax, it isn't any better. The fight scenes look like they might have been good with the right director and editor, but this movie didn't get such people. We get sudden cuts to a close-up of a kick to the head, instead of seeing the more spectacular way by showing the entire fighter doing all of the move. Sometimes the camera does move back, but it's frequently too far away, so that its possible for stunt doubles to be the ones actually fighting. Blanks and Merhi may actually be fighting in those sequences, but it's unfortunately clear they are the ones doing the acting. Merhi is the worst of the two, unable to shake an accent that makes his serious dialogue sound ridiculous. Blanks is only better than Merhi, because he has undeniable screen presence. He has done acceptable work in other movies (check out King of the Kickboxers), but here he is playing a character that does almost nothing to advance his story or strengthen his character.

The stupidity doesn't end here; there are countless ridiculous scenes, though seldom in a so-bad-its funny manner. When Justin first arrives at the complex, he immediately unzips his jacket (exposing his naked chest) before he actually enters the building. When our heroes are captured, and forced to fight endless computer generated opponents, it never occurs to them to walk out of the VR field. Characters get the crap beaten out of them to the extreme, but regain their strength to fight back seconds later. Do I have to go on?

There were only two things in Expect No Mercy that really interested me. One was a scene near the end, where Billy Blanks fights a bad guy who is played by his real life brother, Michael. Not only can this be considered a weird kind of sibling rivalry, this particular fight sequence actually isn't badly done at all. The second thing was the movie's close-captioning. You may not know this, but Canadian close-captioning is frequently detailed to the extreme. It's interesting and amusing to watch the captioning of a movie that takes the time to tell us that someone [inhales] or that a there's a [rope creaking].

UPDATE: Tony Capulano sent this along:

"Interesting work but I have a couple of points about Expect No Mercy and the Canadian content references.  In the review, it is mentioned that Cdn content has been in effect for 30 years or so.  That reference is to Cdn content on radio where these rules have been in effect for that long.  TV licences are quite different. Also, a reference is made to this movie airing twice in one week.  Both broadcasts were between midnight and 6AM.  There are no Cdn content "rules" that apply between midnight and 6AM so the networks/TV stations were airing the movies at that time for their own reasons and not in order to meet their content "quota".  In order for both stations to broadcast the same movie, the stations are probably owned by the same group.  This group owns the broadcast rights for this movie in Canada."

Thanks for the corrections, Tony. Though I'm still sure pretty sure the group that bought the movie were never seriously thinking it could reach a wide audience, given that it (and a lot of other Canadian movies) was broadcast after midnight. I suspect that since many stations also have to spend a minimum amount of money on Canadian programming each year (as well as having quotas forced on them), that some of this money goes to cheaply buying the rights to these movies, then dumping them after midnight (since these bad movies wouldn't get as much ad revenue as other programming.)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Lethal Tender, Back In Action, Act Of War