Mercy (dir. Chris Sparling, 2016) – Four estranged brothers return home to visit their dying mother, but are thrust into a fight for survival of their own.
Bungled execution takes the spark out of an ambitious mystery thriller, but its potential sadly peters out.
Netflix original Mercy is a risk-taker. Lavish with twist and turns, the film leaves conventions at the door and provides little clue as to where the plot is heading. Such unpredictability can often make a mystery gripping. Frustratingly, unwieldy execution leaves us with nothing but a thoroughly perplexing enigma.
Things start off slow in the familial affair, where four brothers gather in their old home. Their mother Grace is dying. A visitor shows up with a mysterious bag, urging the family to end her suffering. Speculations lead to an ensuing moral dilemma of euthanasia. But that theory comes to naught as masked men intrude and threaten a restless night ahead.
A genre switch-up lifts the film from malaise, though never relieving it of tedium for long. Minimal suspense plays to a dull waiting game, where the characters wait around to be snuffed out. Lush visuals never measure up to the storytelling, where there is no real protagonist to root for.
None of the interchangeable brothers (and one token girlfriend) invite any sympathy for their predicament. After all, the morally corrupt family spends half their time preoccupied with a potential inheritance, more so than their mother’s visible ordeal. What follows is more filler than thriller. Impatience follows for the reveal of the violent intrusion’s reasons.
A slight glimpse of hope arises when the story is retold at mid-mark. Events play out anew from a different perspective, gradually filling in gaps and unveiling the identities of the inept criminals. Might things get interesting from here?
Sadly, no. The inventive approach is not only repetitive, but turns out entirely unsatisfying in its answers. Those holding out for compelling antagonists will be sorely disappointed. Out pours their bizarre motivations behind an over-elaborate ploy, which fails to hold up to scrutiny.
Coming at the tail end of a disappointing streak in Chris Sparling’s recent screenwriting efforts (ATM, The Atticus Institute), Mercy is yet another forgettable entry in the crowded home invasion genre, which has seen better days in recent additions like Don’t Breathe, The Strangers, and Hush.