Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Last Mercenary (aka Rolf) (1983)

Don't let go Rolf! You could fall three feet to your death!

In Mario Siciliano's The Last Mercenary, Antonio Marsina (Slave of the Cannibal God) plays Rolf, a man who has given up his evil life as a mercenary and found underpaid employment as a pilot in Tunisia. At least I assume it's Tunisia, judging from the flag on the wall and the vaguely Middle Eastern sounding music they were able to coax out of their Casio keyboard. He's so distant that his hot bartender girlfriend Joanne is at the end of her tether and the local cops hate him so much that when they mistakenly arrest him for a murder they take his fingerprints by dipping his fingers into poop. So it's not a great life, but at least he gets a groovy Fabio Frizzi theme song for whenever he's brooding, which is most of the time.

We all know it's not going to take long for his former war buddies to try and bring him back into the fold, and sure enough a guy appears on his doorstep to offer him One Last Mission (tm). Naturally Rolf refuses and as a sign of his commitment to his new life he takes his neglected girlfriend out on an intimate date the next day. On their date they inspect the wares of Tunisian street vendors and have a cup of tea at a street cafe, where Joanne reminisces about pulling the mangled torso of her father from the fatal car crash that left her an orphan. Rolf counters with a story about his hooker junkie mother being given a fatal drug overdose by her pimp. You know, typical date talk.

Immediately after their romantic date Rolf is cornered by his former mercenary buddies. Rolf may have a catchy theme song but Fabio Frizzi is no Isaac Hayes and Rolf is definitely no Shaft. Rolf is the anti-Shaft. Whereas Shaft's theme song assures us that Shaft "won't cop out when there's danger all about", Rolf's theme song whines that he's "taking a road that leads to paaain." Shaft is a bad mother who always succeeds no matter the odds while Rolf's confrontation leaves him a bloody mess, lying in a ditch covered in leeches until his girlfriend rescues him the next morning. Rolf kind of sucks, actually.

The next day Rolf interrogates his pilot friend Mark, who admits that he is assisting the bad guys with their smuggling operation and agrees to help Rolf steal their package and their charter plane. Rolf's childhood experience has left him with such an intense hatred for drugs that when he discovers that they are smuggling a crate of China White he pisses all over it and tosses it out of the plane. It's pretty hilarious, but it's also pretty shortsighted on Rolf's part. It doesn't even occur to him to tell his girlfriend "Uh, you might want to leave town for a couple of days", so as soon as pulls his little stunt the bad guys immediately ambush her at home, run a train on her (with a succession of ugly mugs leering into camera, thanks Mario) and then kill her. Mark doesn't fair much better, he gets a pan of hot oil thrown in his face and then roasted over a hot plate. Geez Rolf, I know you like brooding, but try thinking of someone else for a change.

With nothing left to live for except a burning desire for revenge, Rolf decides to retrieve his hidden stash of guns and go on a Rambo style rampage in the forest. It's here that Rolf finally comes into his element, but that's mainly because the bad guys are so busy infighting and raiding each others' corpses for valuables. Rolf sets up a few sweet jungle traps but he gets shot in the hands and his arch nemesis escapes. Rolf snarls "You filthy bastard" and then stretches out his bleeding hands and asks for God's help, making for one of the weirdest and sleaziest Christ metaphors I've ever seen. You can't really blame Rolf for feeling self-righteous about killing these guys though, because they are pretty damned evil. Did I mention that during a flashback sequence they toss babies into the air and use them for target practice? Six of them? In front of their mothers? As blood splashes on the floor in slow-motion? To the sounds of a Fabio Frizzi disco score? I can say without hesitation that I'm against all of those things, especially the musical score.

Eventually Rolf gets his revenge on the main villain with a low speed truck chase followed by a fist fight that ends with the bad guy being repeatedly slammed in a car door and meekly slumping into unconsciousness. What the shit, Rolf? This guy ran a train on your girlfriend. He tortured your friend to death. This is your ultimate act of revenge? Punching him in the back until he collapses? I'm sorry but after gang rape, torture and infanticide it just seems a little anti-climactic. To be fair we don't see what he does with the guy's body and in the next scene Rolf is taking a shower in a waterfall, so I'm willing to assume that the subsequent orgy of violence left him soaked in blood and was too depraved to depict on film.

I must say I was quite surprised by this film. From the title I was expecting your typical cheap Italian actioner, but the experience of watching Rolf is not unlike having your hand dipped in poop. It starts conventionally enough, lots of exploding huts and machine guns firing wildly, but pretty soon it takes a hard left into sleazy exploitation territory. For lovers of sleaze though, this film hits all the bases: drug abuse, torture, rape, feces, urination, racism, misogyny. Something for everyone. This is a mean, nasty, ugly exploitation film, miserable and hateful in tone with few redeeming qualities. Highly recommended.

No comments: