There are several generations out there that are going to fire up their Netflix accounts, be greeted by French action comedy The Last Mercenary on the homepage and wonder who the hell this Jean-Claude Van Damme guy is, and why he’s randomly shown up in one of the platform’s most popular original films.
That’s an entirely expected reaction when you consider that with the exception of his brief voice cameo in Kung Fu Panda 3, the Muscles from Brussels has appeared in precisely one movie since 1999 that scored a nationwide theatrical release, which was of course his villainous turn in The Expendables 2, where he eventually met his comeuppance at the hands of Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross.
There was a time three decades ago when it looked like JCVD might replicate the success enjoyed by fellow musclebound action heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, after he rode a wave of momentum by headlining a string of minor hits including Bloodsport, Cyborg, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Death Warrant, Double Impact, Universal Soldier, Hard Target, Timecop, Street Fighter and Sudden Death throughout the 80s and 90s, all of which made money despite the majority of them not being very good.
The Last Mercenary stars the 60 year-old as former secret service agent Richard Brumère, who returns to France when his son is falsely accused of trafficking by the government, thanks to a legal blunder and a criminal operation. Van Damme used to be criticized for taking himself far too seriously, but he seems to have hit a decent run of form after finally becoming self-aware of his own ridiculousness, something The Last Mercenary is happy to lean into, and it’s been good enough to see it rise to third place on the most-watched list.