Taglines: When passion and hatred know no limits, expect no mercy.
Eddie Jilette is a Chicago cop on the vengeance trail as he follows his partner’s killers to New Orleans to settle his own personal score. Eddie flees through the Louisiana bayous with Michel Duval, the beautiful Cajun mistress of a murderous crime lord who aims to destroy the Chicago detective before he can avenge his partner’s murder. Michel and Eddie fall for each other, although they clash repeatedly while handcuffed together as they attempt to elude the brutal underworld figure and his henchmen.
The plot has the footprints of other movies all over it: A cop’s partner is murdered. A beautiful blond is involved. The cop follows the blond to New Orleans and discovers she belongs to a sleazy vice boss. He tries to arrest her, they become handcuffed to one another, he loses the key, the villain’s goons try to kill them, and they escape into the bayou country with nothing more than her torn blouse standing between them and the alligators. Meanwhile, they’re falling in love. So what do you want for six bucks? It’s easy to make fun of the plot, but what’s a plot for?
In a thriller such as “No Mercy,” it exists for one simple reason: to provide the characters with something to do while they attempt to make themselves interesting. And the really remarkable thing about this movie is the genuine chemistry that is generated, not only between Richard Gere and Kim Basinger, who are on either end of the handcuffs, but also between both of them and the movie’s two principal bad guys: an effete rich Southerner, played by William Atherton, and a sadistic neo-Nazi vice lord, played by the Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe.
Thrillers are often only as good as their villains. The Krabbe character seems seriously confused about time and place; I never understood what he was doing in the bayou with his “Dr. Strangelove” act, and I don’t think his redneck followers did, either. But he makes a very satisfactory villain, especially after we learn that the Basinger character was heartlessly sold to him when she was only a child and has been his slave ever since.
No Mercy is a 1986 film starring Richard Gere and Kim Basinger about a policeman who accepts an offer to kill a Cajun gangster. The other cast are Richard Gere, Kim Basinger, Jeroen Krabbé, George Dzundza, Gary Basaraba, William Atherton, Marita Geraghty, Aleta Mitchell and Bruce McGill.
Film Review: No Mercy
NO American actor can match Richard Gere in making grandiose and often unreasonable claims for himself with each new role. From ”King David” to the remake of ”Breathless,” Mr. Gere has consistently demonstrated more confidence in his own magnetism than anyone else seems to feel. Yet there are times when the perception of Mr. Gere as a tough-talking, quietly mesmerizing figure, a man of keen and unpredictable longings, seems wholly justified, and his latest film is one of them. “No Mercy” is a passionate film noir that depends heavily upon Mr. Gere to give it credence, and Mr. Gere delivers.
“No Mercy,” which opens today at the Warner Twin and other theaters, casts the actor as Eddie Jillette, a Chicago policeman, and throws him into as many different settings and adventures as can be crammed into an hour and three-quarters. He is seen, for instance, working at a car wash, party-crashing at a mansion, working his way out of an underwater prison and roaming the Louisiana bayous with a beautiful captive handcuffed to his wrist. And that’s only the start of it. Excessive as it sometimes is, “No Mercy” also has energy to spare.
The screenplay was written by Jim Carabatsos, who also wrote “Heartbreak Ridge,” and demonstrates much the same flair for purplish dialogue (“Guy wants to go to Florida and retire with a bag of oranges in his lap”) and extravagant man-talk (“You cross me and I’ll personally grease the pole that slides you into a tub of…”). Mr. Carabatsos’ screenplay is also, even at its most glaringly attention-getting, very memorable, even when not entirely new. “I don’t know anything,” says a suspect whom Eddie is interrogating. “Day or night?” snaps Eddie. “What?” asks the suspect. “Is it day or night?” “Night.” “See? You do know something. Don’t you ever lie to me again.”
The story intertwines Eddie with a gorgeous, helpless woman (Kim Basinger) and an underworld kingpin who says he owns her (Jeroen Krabbe), not to mention a second man who is conspiring with the woman to kill the first; as such, it has echoes of Chandler and Hammett and particularly James M. Cain. The film treats as an endearing quality the fact that the woman, who as a one-man moll has had something of a sheltered upbringing, can scarcely write her name. But for all its 40’s throwbacks, “No Mercy” resists the temptation to pay paralyzing homage to that era. Its style is intense, suitably crazy, and distinctly its own.
The director, Richard Pearce, also directed “Heartland” and “Country,” neither of which explains his move to something as darkly convoluted as this. But Mr. Pearce does keep a tight rein on a plot that could easily go out of control, and he has cast the film especially skillfully, in a way that keeps it full of surprises. Miss Basinger, always voluptuous, has a chance to show off a more complicated range this time, and she and Mr. Gere are well matched. And Mr. Krabbe makes a spectacularly sinister villain, striding through the film in a formidable big-shouldered stormcoat with his hair pulled back like a Japanese warrior’s. As a Louisiana gangster named Losado, Mr. Krabbe is called upon to address his victims as “my friend” and then disembowel them (off-camera) with a hunting knife. He manages to do this with remarkable sophistication and style.
The fine cast of supporting players includes Ray Sharkey, who does a great deal with the tiny role of a drug dealer; Gary Basaraba, as Eddie Jillette’s touchingly down-to-earth (and ill-fated) partner; Bruce McGill, as a New Orleans police lieutenant who’s none too pleased to have Eddie Jillette freelancing in his neighborhood, and Terry Kinney, as the man who foolishly teams up with Losado’s moll in an attempt to kill him. Soon after this man’s predictable demise, Mr. Gere’s Eddie goes to visit William Atherton, who plays the dead man’s brother, and tells him about the moll, who has a blue parrot tattooed on her shoulder. “Tattoo?” Mr. Atherton asks drily. “I’m going to miss Paul. He was a very amusing man.” Also notable is Patrizia von Brandenstein’s production design, which gives the film an enjoyably lurid and varied look.
To be sure, ”No Mercy” borders on the noirishly absurd; how can it not, when its hero and heroine meet as they do? Mr. Gere, impersonating a professional killer, is sent to a restaurant with orders to look for a woman described as “a heartbreaker.” He identifies her immediately. She is arguing with her male escort, and Mr. Gere begins arguing with her, too. Then he insults the other man for not being able to handle her better. Then he slaps her, leaving Miss Basinger looking shocked and the other man impressed. “I think we can do business,” the other man says admiringly. Miss Basinger then proceeds to fall in love with her assailant. A film that can hold its audience’s sympathies despite such posturing is a film to be reckoned with, one way or another.
No Mercy (1986)
Directed by: Richard Pearce
Starring: Richard Gere, Kim Basinger, Jeroen Krabbé, George Dzundza, Gary Basaraba, William Atherton, Marita Geraghty, Aleta Mitchell, Bruce McGill
Screenplay by: James Carabatsos
Production Design by: Patrizia von Brandenstein
Cinematography by: Michel Brault
Film Editing by: Gerald B. Greenberg, Bill Yahraus
Costume Design by: Hilary Rosenfeld
Set Decoration by: Derek R. Hill, Gretchen Rau
Art Direction by: Doug Kraner
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: December 19, 1986