A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
I could go two ways. I could say that "No Mercy" is a dumb formula thriller, which we can all sort of figure out from the ads, or I could go the other way and talk about the movie's style and energy. I think I'll go the second way, because whatever this movie is, it's not boring. It doesn't take shortcuts and it delivers on its grimy, breathless action sequences.
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.