Release Date(s)1986 (January 17, 2023)
Studio(s)Delphi Productions/TriStar Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
No Mercy is a standard cops-and-bad-guys thriller with two attractive leading players that follows a familiar playbook in terms of plot but does manage some exciting action sequences along the way.
Chicago cop Eddie Jillette (Richard Gere), attempting to avenge the murder of his partner, learns that beautiful blonde Michel Duval (Kim Basinger) may be implicated in the crime. She is reputed to be in New Orleans and Jillette heads South to track her down. He discovers that Michel is the “property” of brutal crime boss Losado (Jeroen Krabbe). When he tries to arrest her, they become handcuffed to one another and he loses the key. With Losado’s thugs in pursuit, intent on killing them both, this proves problematic, especially when they escape to the bayou.
The role of Jillette is not exactly fresh, Gere gives the character plenty of indignation, anger, brash courage, and raw determination. Jillette is obsessed with finding Losado and making him pay. This drives the plot and Gere’s performance is instrumental in keeping us involved.
As might be expected, you can’t have two good-looking leads not form a romantic relationship. Sure enough, Jillette and Michel become far more than adversaries as they become prey first to Losado and later his hunters. The chemistry between Gere and Basinger is pretty solid, though Basinger appears to be acting on a different level from Gere.
As Basinger expertly conveys that Michel’s cool attitude and fashionable clothing mask a vulnerable, terrorized victim, she elicits our sympathy. Michel is involved with a dangerous criminal and, as a witness to the murder of Jillette’s partner, she has become expendable. Jillette’s hard-nosed attitude toward Michel softens when he learns the kind of life she’s had. She was sold to Losado as a child and has been his slave ever since. As “the girl” in a testosterone-fueled film, Basinger doesn’t have much to do, but she makes the most of it.
This type of film depends not only on its quality but also on that of the villain. Krabbe, in a role with limited dialogue, makes an imposing, scary presence with his rigid stature, menacing expression, and unsettling line readings enhanced by long leather coat and stylized ponytail. A cold-blooded killer who enjoys watching his victims die slowly, Losado is simultaneously dangerous and creepy. Krabbe is a welcome change from typical gangsters in that he doesn’t announce how lethal he is, he simply shows it.
Another interesting twist is Jillette’s commanding officer, Captain Stembowski (George Dzunda, The Deer Hunter). Instead of a boss who’s constantly trying to restrain his cop, Stembowski is willing not only to look the other way about Jillette’s methods but actually enable him to avenge the murder of his partner for the sake of the department.
In an appropriately unctuous role, William Atherton portrays effete wealthy Southerner Allan Deveneux, who dismisses Jillette’s inquiries as inconvenient intrusions until Jillette makes it clear that he means business. Deveneux is the kind of arrogant character you love to see being put in his place.
Director Richard Pearce includes a few car chases, plenty of gunplay, fist fights, and even a conflagration to amp the excitement. The action scenes are nicely choreographed. A climactic sequence has a great deal of suspense and shows Jillette’s cleverness in planning for an inevitable confrontation with Losado and his gang. The middle of police thrillers sometimes drags but, to Pearce’s credit, he keeps the pace brisk, with action sequences in abundance. Though not well known these days, No Mercy is an entertaining, if not exactly original, 80s thriller.
No Mercy was shot by director of photography Michel Brault on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex cameras and lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1:85:1. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray features an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Clarity and contrast are both quite good. In many shots, the camera is looking through something, such as a rain-streaked window, car window, or curtain. In a technique inspired by film noir, the moving shadows of rain on the window play on the faces of Jillette and Michel as they lie in bed. Michel dramatically emerges from a heavy mist at a climactic point. Color palette tends toward darker or desaturated colors, with few vivid primary hues. The bayou, filmed in the early morning, has a ghostly aura, with mist lying over the trees and swamp. Complexions are natural and Basinger is not overly made up. The flavor of New Orleans is captured as Jillette walks the streets in his quest to find Michel.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear throughout. In the New Orleans scenes, ambient street sounds are balanced nicely with dialogue. In a late-night scene, suspense is enhanced in a dark alley by dogs barking in the distance. Sound effects include shotgun blasts, handgun fire, cracking flames in a key scene, and Michel and Jillette slogging through the bayou swamp. Though not especially noteworthy in terms of its dramatic contribution, the sound is effective.
Bonus materials include the following:
- Fire with Fire (11:21)
- Trailer (2:13)
- The Real McCoy Trailer (2:02)
- Code of Silence Trailer (2:39)
- Black Moon Rising Trailer (1:30)
- Murphy’s Law Trailer (1:30)
- Wanted: Dead or Alive Trailer (1:20)
- Bird on a Wire Trailer (2:25)
Fire with Fire – Actor Jeroen Krabbe enthusiastically speaks about No Mercy and his career in motion pictures. After being cast in the film Jumping Jack Flash, he was told the plug had been pulled. Being Dutch, he didn’t understand the idiom and his agent had to explain that the director had been fired and the project was dead. Krabbe got a small part in the TV series World War III, starring Rock Hudson. After that, he didn’t fare well career-wise in Los Angeles and returned home to the Netherlands. He got a call from the producers of No Mercy to get on a plane to Wilmington, North Carolina. He was rushed to a hotel and given his lines, went over a scene with Richard Gere, and became the villain Losado in No Mercy, his American film debut. He describes a very bad accident on the set that involved an out-of-control fire. He and Richard Gere had to run through flames to escape the blaze. From his personal scrapbook, Krabbe proudly reads an except of a review that admiringly discusses his performance in No Mercy.
No Mercy is a well made thriller that delivers action, star power, and a memorable bad guy. With elements of film noir, it deals with the underbelly of society in a gritty screenplay with an overused premise, variations on generic characters, coarse language, and a straightforward narrative.
- Dennis Seuling