Back when the mystical movie workshop of the Cannon Group was still goin’ strong, the filmmaking duo of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus cranked out one B-movie action flick after another. Anyone who can vividly recall strolling through the aisles of a video store during the glorious days of VHS may also remember seeing the familiar Cannon logo on a number of videocassette sleeves, which were usually found on Media and MGM/UA releases. For some, the Cannon mark meant you pretty much knew what you were getting into should you have decided to rent one of their features.
Low budgets, synthesizer music scores, outrageous moments of sheer lunacy, absurd stories — for a bad movie lover, the symbol of the Cannon Group and producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus was synonymous with “cheese.” Now, while the cheesiness of most Golan-Globus movies have only ripened over the years, we occasionally find a true dud that is hard to enjoy no matter what. Well, I found one of those flicks: Mercenary Fighters, an embarrassing action feature from 1988 starring Peter Fonda, Reb Brown, Ron O’Neal, and James Mitchum.
For those of you who are interested, the story here focuses on T.J. Christian (Reb Brown, still riding high on the success of Yor, the Hunter from the Future), who is invited by his ol’ ‘Nam buddy, Taylor (Ron O’Neal of Super Fly fame) to join up on a mercenary crusade into Africa. The leader of the troupe is played by Peter Fonda, who, sporting a mane of gorgeous long hair has him looking like he just walked out of an audition for Highlander). Also in the company is James Mitchum, son of actor Robert Mitchum. Now, as to Jim — well, let’s just say the apple fell very far away from the tree and have done with, OK?
Naturally, our mercs are fighting for the wrong side (led by RoboCop actor Robert DoQui), something that T.J. Christian finds out a little late. Nevertheless, one glance at an average-looking white nurse with big ears (Joanna Weinberg) changes his mind on the matter — and he decides it would be the good, god-like Christian thing for him to save the people they he was hired to kill instead (hence the last name, eh?). But not before he gets his ultimate Rambo moment of shooting a machine gun amid a gigantic fireball of an explosion while shrieking like a banshee (anyone who has ever heard Reb yell in a movie knows what I mean). It must have been in his contract: “Must have Stallone moment.”
Put simply: Mercenary Fighters just isn’t that fun of a flick. It’s boring, poorly executed, and predictable. The movie has never been available on DVD until now (and it’s easy to see why), though its digital debut is part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection (a wise move, MGM). The disc includes the original trailer (I don’t think this one even made it to theaters in the U.S.) as an extra, and the presentation of the main feature is a fine one (all things considered). The DVD’s cover, however, is pretty bad (Fonda kinda looks like Kurt Russell there, doesn’t he?). Frankly, I don’t know why they didn’t use the original Media VHS artwork.
But then, I don’t know why MGM released this one instead of bringing us the just-as-bad-but-much-more-enjoyable Cannon/Golan-Globus epic Ninja III: The Domination, either.