It begins with the renegade Chicago cop (Richard Gere) who follows a tip on his own, without his gruff-but-lovable chief’s permission. It proceeds to the death of his partner, in the line of duty. Naturally it follows that he must avenge his partner’s death, by looking for the icy blonde (Kim Basinger) with the tattoo on her shoulder.
So he goes to New Orleans, which prompts the fish-out-of-water stuff we loved so much in Witness. He’s actually offered a mint julep, eats crawfish, and walks down Bourbon Street, looking for clues. When he runs into the local police, they tell him—all together, now—to stay out of town, that they don’t need some smart guy from Chicago telling them how to do police work, etc. And somehow he finds the icy blonde.
At which point No Mercy reaches way back to Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps and has the hero and heroine handcuffed to each other. This film seems designed to trash all the detective conventions.
It’s the work of scriptwriter James Carabatsos, who is also represented this month with the equally salty Heartbreak Ridge. Carabatsos seems to think that if he dresses his clichés in oddball language, no one will notice they’re clichés. Example: Gere walks into a restaurant full of expensive-looking women and remarks, “Most of these broads still got their price tags hangin’ from their noses.”
Directed Richard Pearce (Heartland) treats all of this as though it were good or something—and through sheer commitment he makes the opening 20 minutes or so fairly gripping. Eventually the script’s bozo contrivances take over, as when Gere and Basinger escape from under a dock teeming with bad guys, or when they drift into the bayou country, then improbably allow their canoe to drift away (after hanging on it it all night long).
Worst of all is the stagnant finale, which takes place in an old hotel and lasts a dull 20 to 25 minutes. It’s cramped, and Pearce can’t make the setting come alive.
Gere is barely adequate. He seems preoccupied with getting on to some other movie, perhaps one with more ambition. Basinger, having a busy year (9 ½ Weeks, Fool for Love), is also not all there. Together, in supposedly steamy love scenes, they only manage to muss each other up.
They both have the movie stolen from them by the villain, a pony-tailed snake who likes to carve people up with a gutting knife. He’s played by Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe (The Fourth Man), who easily outshines the protagonists. Under such circumstances, it’s not all that much to be proud of.
First published in the Herald, December 20, 1986
Dead, dead, dead—an absolute misfire. Interesting that Gere eventually did age into some good performances, including a fine turn in 2012’s Arbitrage.