... aka: Jungle Killers
... aka: Jungle Killers: Cannibal Mercenary
... aka: Jungle Killers: The Jaguar Project
... aka: Mercenary, The
... aka: Mercenary Cannibals
Hong Lu Wong
Young war vet Sgt. Wilson (Lek Songphon) is haunted by flashbacks of Vietnam and of his polio-stricken daughter. He needs to come up with 100,000 dollars to get the proper medical treatment for his daughter and, as luck would have it, a Colonel offers him five times that to lead a top secret commando mission. There, he's to meet up with a woman named Jumper or Junpa or something and learn the rest of his assignment. Next thing we know, Wilson and his platoon (about half a dozen men) are heading through the 'Nam jungle toward their destination. The first group of vietcong they come across are quickly dispatched in a variety of gory ways... and they barely even use their guns! One guy is decapitated, a head is smashed in with a rock, a throat is cut and someone is chopped up with an axe. They also run across a distressed female villager who claims to be pregnant and in need of help. She turns out to be a spy who seduces and then castrates one of the men before being gunned down.
One of the other soldiers has frequent flashbacks to shooting his wife in the back as she has sex with another man. Another guy wrestles with a snake. There are loads of gunfights, explosions, karate fights and booby traps along the way, which take out several of the soliders. They also manage to get pissed on not once, but twice. One guy says "You know, it really smelled like champagne" (?!) afterward. Eventually, they find their female contact, who tells them to "Take a load off your feet" and that they've been brought there to snuff out a drug exporter and his vicious gang. As they near them, they're attacked, kidnapped and taken back to the bad guy's camp to be tortured. One guy is led over a line of firecrackers that explode at crotch-level and is then buried up to his head in the dirt and has a spike hammered into his head. The bad guy gang then eat his brains. Another has his eyeballs poked out, his arm cut off and is then eaten. Things lead up to more fighting and a surprisingly effective ending.
This film (which has a small cult following) takes a decidedly anti-war stance, looks at its hero, his fellow soldiers and innocent villagers caught in the crossfire sympathetically and is loaded with gore and action from start to finish. In fact, there's so much shooting, punching, kicking and hacking, and it's all so consistently loud, that it becomes a numbing viewing experience in no short time. Still, there's certainly enough going on here to make this highly appealing to action, horror, exploitation and war movie fans. The editing is amateurish and jumpy, but some of the flash cutting work wells, particularly at the end. Though the English dub is terrible, the actors aren't too bad, and neither are the blood effects, fight choreography or pyro work. Some of the score sound familiar? Well it should. Half of it was swiped directly from DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)!
There are at least three different cuts of the film on the market. Surprisingly enough, the original U.S. VHS release from PVC Video (titled just The Mercenary) is uncut and runs the full 103 minutes. A bootleg DVD distributed by ZZD Visual Media (and sourced from the American tape) is also uncut. Unfortunately, this cut version has the laughably awful dubbing and is in full screen with middling picture quality. Still, it is the most complete version currently available. Other versions, including ones released in Germany and the UK, have nearly 20 minutes missing. Tomas Tang's Filmark International also acquired the movie, cut out most of the gore, added brand new (and completely irrelevant) scenes featuring three Caucasian actors searching for a valuable statue and released it under several different titles (The Jaguar Project and Jungle Killers are this Filmark version).