Richard Gere and Kim Basinger make Their way Through New Orleans Potboiler



Every now and then, some blend of curiosity mixed with nostalgia leads one to a formerly long-overlooked movie.  KL Studio Classics is once again here to scratch that itch with its Blu-ray release of the 1986 Richard Gere vehicle, No Mercy.  Adorned with the very imagery and lipstick-scrawled title that I walked past a hundred times back in the age of the VHS video rental store, No Mercy proves to be a thoroughly 1980’s gritty actioner, right down to the disappointingly inert and often nonexistent action.  

A ferociously dull run through the swamp and neon of New Orleans, No Mercy ends up being as generic as its title.  While it’s got oodles of that ‘80s mist & rain-on-glass aesthetic, Gere, playing an unhinged Chicago police detective, registers as little more than a pretty face.  A pretty, angry, and often dirty face, but a pretty face, nonetheless.  In fact- no knock on his costar, Kim Basinger (appearing here at her peak-knockout level)- Gere, often times, is even prettier than her.

The second-best stretch of No Mercy (the title is a tossed-off idiom courtesy of the hunting knife-wielding murderous villain, played generic, imposing aplomb by Jeroen Krabbé) is when Gere and Basinger find themselves hip-deep in the bayou waters and are handcuffed together.  That happens in the middle of the movie when the pair still hate each other.  But, between the lost key and the fact that these two rising stars are too smoldering hot to keep off each other in perpetuity, a lusty version of Stockholm syndrome sets in soon enough.

Basinger is the Cajun paramour of Krabbé, literally dragged out of that unhealthy situation by Gere, who is hellbent on avenging his partner’s gruesome death at the blade of said Krabbé.  It’s too bad that Basinger is given nothing to do other than to scream, fall in love with Gere, and look hot in frequently saturated clothing.  It would be well more than a decade before the actress is taken seriously in L.A. Confidencial for which she took home an Oscar.  This is her paying her dues.  No other business forces people to pay their dues than the film business.

The first best section of the film is the last section.  This is where all the drummed-up tensions come to a head, and No Mercy allows itself to turn into a Western showdown, but with shotguns.  The small gang of villains converge on the corner saloon that Gere and Basinger are holed up.  Gere, though, has a plan.  Will it work?  Uh oh, the whole place is on fire!  The vengeful bloodletting continues unabated.  It’s as generic as all heck, but director Richard Pearce (setting aside his considerably more impressive cinéma vérité credentials, having worked with the respected lines of D.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock) does a fine job of staging the action.

No Mercy has the distinction of harboring the first Alan Silvestri score I’ve ever heard that fails to elevate its film.  Perhaps the sound editing got too selective, as the music abruptly comes and goes throughout.  If anything, Pearce seems to favor long stretches of no music, only using Silvestri’s score to punch up very particular moments.  But No Mercy is ultimately not the gritty realistic drama that it’s sound mix implies.  Indeed, it’s a potboiler that seems to give up on itself even as its main character persists and persists.

Although marketed as a “special edition” release, the only special feature besides the film’s trailer is a short Zoom interview with actor Jeroen Krabbé.  In it, Krabbé speaks more about his overall career than this movie.  He does give credit to No Mercy’s hairdresser for coming up with the short tight ponytail look that steered his embodiment of the bad guy.  Also, there’s a slipcover on the outer packaging.  It displays the same artwork as the case, and is no doubt limited to early print runs.  It does look nice, evoking that VHS-era nostalgia.  

No Mercy has been released on Blu-ray before from other labels, and there’s no indication on this new edition that the transfer or audio mix are new, improved, or in any way different from what came before in 1080p.  That said, the presentation does come off quite well.  While the whole of No Mercy can’t be recommended for its entertainment value, it does have a few decent moments to get us through.  Those are the small mercies as Pearce just can’t get this one in Gere.