At 60, Jean-Claude Van Damme has about as many features as birthdays. Given this productivity, the strangely addicting “JCVD” (2008) showed the Belgian thug pondering the options available to an aging action star.
“The Last Mercenary (Le Dernier Mercenaire)” comes across as one of those options on Netflix, with Van Damme showing a mischievous self-awareness about himself and the genre that has nurtured him. As Richard Brumère, a famous secret service agent who allegedly once hit a rhinoceros with his bare hands, the actor is in excellent shape. It may take a little longer to film a stunt, but thanks to Thierry Arbogast’s camera skills, the seams are barely visible in the action.
That’s a good thing, because Richard prefers hands and feet to weapons. And when his estranged son (Samir Decazza) is falsely accused of the arms trade, Richard must return to Paris after a 25-year absence to put things right. This requires multiple disguises and international locations (the film was shot mostly in Ukraine), a new load of buddies, and probably a lot of stretching.
The plot (by director David Charhon and Ismaël Sy Savané) is a bloated mix of terrorism, stolen identity and father-son healing. The middle part hangs down and not all performances pop. (Though Nassim Lyes hangs it up with a shovel to play a “Scarface” -obossed villain.) But the fight scenes are witty and Van Damme delivers his lines with just the right dose of tired good humor.
“You have aged,” observes a former colleague (played by none other than Miou-Miou), and it is evidence of the tone of the film that the comment is anything but a burn, almost a caress.
The last mercenary
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. Watch on Netflix.