With the promise of good pay he signs on and finds himself undergoing rigorous training with a team of young fighters, each of them having been saved from disadvantage in exchange for their loyalty and service. Their objective is to combat drug cartels long the US/Mexican border, but as the training methods become irrational, Mitch begins to suspect an ulterior motive.
Director Charles Burmeister's previous film was COLOMBUS DAY starring Val Kilmer, which was a poorly received film with a troubled production. Outrageous producer interference lead to the film being bastardised and Burmeister learned what it was to be a Hollywood puppet. Eight years later he returns with MERCURY PLAINS and from appearances it would seem that he has control again. This is a much bolder film with an improved execution and a much stronger focus.
The story hits the ground running and the premise is established within the first ten minutes. Before we know it Mitch is thrown into his new environment without any legitimate attempt to build context around his predicament, and little regard for his backstory. The film's rush to the action deprives it from emotional devices that may have given the audience a stronger attachment to the story. It's difficult to sympathise with Mitch regardless of the adversity he's forced to overcome and there's very little compassion. On the flip side, what the film lacks in character depth it makes up for with style. MERCURY PLAINS is a smart-looking movie, with a dusty wind-swept atmosphere and a production design that almost aligns its aesthetic with films like TRAFFIC, EL GRINGO and 2 GUNS.
Eastwood commands the screen with an eerie resemblance to his father, which is almost distracting. Several times throughout the film I kept recalling his old-man's earlier work and the likeness is uncanny. He is certainly his father's son and Scott is proving to be a future star. The remaining cast are all good, although their ensemble lacks any distinct stand-out. They service the story well, but never dominate the screen. The fast pace and taut running time keep film engaging and there isn't a lull in sight. This is definitely a step in the right direction for Eastwood and Burmeister, and I anticipate good things ahead.