Special agent Justin Vanier (Billy Blanks) is sent undercover to the Virtual Arts Academy, a mysterious dojo run by a man known as Warbeck who is secretly training his fighters to become elite assassins using hi-tech virtual reality combat simulators. Justin enters the academy and joins up with his contact Eric and they try and take down Warbeck before his assassins kill again.
Expect No Mercy has one of the more original storylines of the myriad of DTV martials arts films that emerged in the 1990s. The virtual reality training system is a heavily promoted aspect of the film, although it is really just a gimmick, trying to cash in on the popular arcade fighting games of the time (even down to the daft opponents, like a clown and a ninja), but the training academy setting is certainly interesting - unfortunately it is never really developed properly, there seems to be something of a futuristic dystopic/post-apocalyptic feel in the scenes at the academy, yet the exteriors are obviously meant to be contemporary, and no reason is given why people come to this academy which cuts them off completely from the outside world like a religious cult.
Fortunately the writers never forget the main purpose of the film and provide plenty of opportunities for martial arts and gunfighting scenes and although the storyline is rather under-deveoped, it is always easy to follow with a solid build-up to the inevitable martial arts climax. The only mis-fire in the script are the occasional cheesy one-liners that Blanks' character is given, which seem quite out of place. A rather sterotypical Woody Allen-esque Jewish banker character, Goldberg, who is the target of the assassins might have become annoying, but fortunately does not get much screentime.
Director Zale Dalen does a perfectly good job, the all important fighting and action scenes are well helmed. The effects in the virtual reality sequences are rather dated, but this suits the film just fine and adds to the bizarrity of the sequences. The set design at the academy and the synthesised soundtrack both add to the feeling that this more of a sci-fi project.
Creator of the Taebo exercise programme and a martial arts champion, Blanks had a rather unmemorable film career, mostly starring in straight to video action films, his acting is rather flat but his performances in the action scenes are well worth watching, with some obviously experienced martial arts on display. DTV martial arts regular Jalal Mehri plays Eric, while Blank's brother Michael Blanks has a good part as one of Warbeck's agents, getting to showdown with his Billy later on in the film. Brett Halsey, a veteran of the Euro-cult era (Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (1970)) has a brief cameo as the businessman paying for one of the hits.
Expect No Mercy gives the impression of originally having a more elaborate storyline, stripped down to make a low budget action packed film. There are some good ideas, but they are never really developed and the film certainly would have been more interesting as a dystopia story. Fortunately the action scenes are highly enjoyable thanks to some good casting and like all of Billy Blanks' films, they provide a suitably entertaining 90 minutes' viewing.
|Anyone famous in it?||Billy Blanks - martial arts champion and creator of the Taebo exercise programme.|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Zale Dalen - a little known director who helmed the unusual Terminal City Ricochet (1990) but mostly worked in television, including directing espiodes of Call of the Wild (2000) and Friday the 13th (1988).|
|Any gore or violence ?||Some bloody deaths.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None|
|Who is it for?||Fans of straight to video action films should enjoy this and one of Blank's best.|
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1. Colour.
Picture quality is a little grainy but generally clear. Colours seem a little over-vivid.
|Audio||English stereo - sounds fine.|
|Region||Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL|
|Other regions?||American R1 release from Legacy Entertainment.|
|Cuts?||The film is believed to be uncut. Titles and credits are in English.