15th October 2016 6.30pm at Vue West End
16th October 2016 8.30pm at Picturehouse Central
A mercenary is essentially a soldier for hire, and in Sacha Wolff’s debut, the title lives up to its unique story. Soane (Toki Pilioko), a beefy, 120-kilogram guy lives in New Caledonia until he is recruited to play for a rugby team in France.
The game itself is perhaps not the most brutal feature within the movie; Soane’s life is brimming with instances of being out of luck, but it also makes his resilience worth rooting for. The tropes are slightly conventional – down-on-his-luck but talented son with an abusive father against a backdrop of sport politics. Wolff’s treatment of it, however, feels fresh, just like the cerulean sea air in Noumea. It also defies archetypes – Soane is largely built and exudes masculinity, but he shows impressive emotional depth through the course of the film. His seemingly dangerous recruiter sincerely offers him a chance to change his life, but the story really begins when he arrives in France fluently speaking the language, but his attempts to blend into the background are somewhat thwarted. The recruiter’s team rejects him and with no home to return to, Soane’s journey takes a turn. He is neither an insider nor an outsider, really coming into his status as a mercenary. This allows for a steady reveal of plot that plays out at its own relaxed pace.
The cinematography is stellar, with breath-taking shots of the Pacific, but the real star of the movie is Pilioko. The score helps alleviate the dramatic tension – of which there is plenty – but Pilioko’s acting is easily translated on screen, almost effortless in nature. The movie, while gritty and raw, has revealing moments of sincerity from its characters as they are caught in pursuit of what they want while living out the life they’ve been given.
Mercenary does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Mercenary here: