Built by humans. Programmed by computers. The ultimate killing machine. (This tagline makes absolutely no sense!)
Merchant of Death is another late 90's Nu Image movie and is pretty by-the-numbers, not that there is anything wrong with that. It starts like a typical Nu Image movie as well where half the films budget is expended in the opening scenes.
After a flashback scene to his childhood where a six year old Michael Pare sees his parents and cringe-worthy sister killed and thrown off a cliff by ruthless henchmen with accents trying to forcefully acquire his fathers land, we snap forward to a present day drug bust. It's a massive shootout with huge explosions, similar to something like Hard Justice and One Man Force. There's guys in the backs of vans shooting randomly and smashing through warehouse walls, bulldozers on fire ploughing over burning barrels and people, and that's before Pare even shows up. Once he emerges from his car, cigar in his mouth and "damn I'm cool" expression on his face, he shouts out for the druglord to come forward. Instead of course Pare gets to punchfight and machine gun fools as they slow-motion fall off suspended walkways. He also gets to drive a bulldozer that's on fire! Finally Pare gets an RPG and blows the whole sodding building sky high!
As you would expect Pare gets chewed out by the Chief and his Captain, Sam. Like any good cop action movie he gets suspended from duty. The best part about this scene is the Chief is a dead ringer for Foghorn Leghorn, it's really quite amusing. He is ordered to attend counselling with the police Doctor but blows it off because he's just too manly for that. He gets a tip later from Sam that a police snitch has information for them so the two go to an old warehouse. The snitch is dead on the scene and the whole thing, of course, is a massive trap.
That's when the motorbikes and machine guns come in to play and some cool shooting at exploding barrel scenes. Unfortunately Sam is shot and in his dying breath, tells Pare he was involved in his parents murder and that a guy called Anthony at Hyperion Exports is to blame. Then the drug-lord from the beginning appears: "You know what disappoints me? That I can only kill you once." He's shot and falls from a bridge. Hooray! This is the best movie EVER!
And then it all gets boring for a long, long while... like over half an hour of tedious funerals, psychotherapy sessions (with the, at least, pretty hot Linda Hoffman), reminiscing, digging into Hyperion Exports secrets, annoyingly long conversations and just downright non-explosive action. It was quite a trial to get through the second act of the movie honestly, my attention was severely waning and I kept checking the time. Pare even poses as a reporter and does interviews... blah! There's a funny looking evil guy with an eyepatch at 50 minutes, and at about the 55 minute mark there's a good car chase ("Hey where'd you get your licence?") where the classic 'fly the car over the moving train' scene is pulled out again. Linda Hoffman is kidnapped by bad guys and the final act kicks into gear.
Luckily the last 25 minutes make up for the agonising middle section when Pare goes to Venezuela to rescue the girl and have a final match with the Hyperion Exports guy. Lot's of sneaking around an estate, planting detonators, picking off guards etc. then finally a quick trip back to America to finish off the final guy. The beginning and end of the movie are really quite good - not brilliant but quite good - it's just that daytime television middle act that needs re-writing. And that's a real shame.
And what's the go with that tagline?! Programmed by computers, really? Who was smoking the wacky-tobaccy when they dreamt up this tagline? (There's another DVD edition that has the far more sensible "The key to his future lies buried in his past.")
Not bad at all, full screen presentation as it was most likely filmed, a little soft but generally a pleasing image. Clear sound, no issues. Reviewed the R2 disc by cheapo company Prism Leisure and the DVD has nothing but a static menu and six chapter points. Runtime 90 minutes.
eBay for a dollar or two.
As hard as I looked I could not find a trailer for this movie, nor was there one on my DVD, so I added a tonne of screenshots for you. Meanwhile please enjoy this trailer for the first action movie made in Uganda: "Who Killed Captain Alex? (Seriously, watch this.)