Action Rewind: Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi Kick Up a Storm in the 90’s VHS Martial Arts Epic EXPECT NO MERCY

What’s up Action-Flix Fanatics! Welcome to another new series of posts on my new and improved website which is taking over for my Classic Action section on my old webpage. Now called Action Rewind, this is where I will be going over some of the best and some of the lesser known action gems from the glorious days of the 80’s and 90’s and the early milennium when action cinema ruled both the theaters and the video stores (you remember those, right?). While there is a lot to get excited about these days with the quality of action out there, there will never be a time like then to be an action fanand I’m thankful that I was old enough to experience it first hand. The VHS action craze will never be duplicated again.

Without further ado, my first entry for the Action Rewind is the kick ass and take names 1995 martial arts epic Expect No Mercy from Imperial Entertainment who just like PM Entertainment cranked out some of the greatest B-Movie action the decade had to offer. Starring two of that decades most prominent VHS action stars Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi, the film is over-the-top martial arts fisticuffs at its most finest!

Federal Service Agent Justin Vanier has been assigned to infiltrate the mysterious Virtual Arts Academy in search of Eric, a fellow agent. In this high-tech facility, the maniacal leader Warbeck is training assassins to become even more efficient killing machines using virtual reality. Penetrating the organization as a new recruit, Justin finds Eric, and together with the idealistic Vicki must bring down Warbeck before he succeeds with his deadly plans.

Now it’s important to explain that real life martial arts champion Billy Blanks ruled the 90’s with his awesome arsenal of martial arts mastery in such other films like TC 2000, Talons Of The Eagle, Tough And Deadly and the classic of them all, King Of The Kickboxers. Blanks owned the screen with his physical prowess and while his acting might have been suspect in many cases, he still was a fan favorite as he delivered the bone crunching fisticuffs on many a Saturday night. Before Blanks went on to create the worldwide Tae Bo workout phenominon, he was one of the kings of the action castle and this film gave him plenty of opportunity to obliterate scores of faceless bad guys.

Joining him on this quest was Lebanese martial arts actor, producer and director Jamal Merhi who served up equal doses of karate mayhem in the 90’s and is best known for the Tiger Claws trilogy which also starred Cynthia Rothrock and Bolo Yeung. Merhi kicked up the dust with the best of them and here, he teams up with Blanks in a film that was both preposterous and awesome at the same time.

As plots go, this one is certainly classic for all the cheesy reasons and has a great comic book vibe to it as Blanks plays Agent Justin Vanier who goes undercover at a Virtual Training Academy to hunt down a fellow agent who has gone off the gird. That agent is Eric played by Merhi. Running this Academy is Warbeck, played by Wolf Larson who also starred in some spectacular 90’s offerings like the TV series L.A.Heat, and Tarzan as well as the films The Elite and Shakedown. Larson hams it up as the over the top Warbeck and even gets to throw down with Blanks at the end. It doesn’t hurt that he has a great head of hair on him either. Rounding out the cast is Laurie Holden who would go on to star in the hit AMC series The Walking Dead.

The film was helmed by Zale Dalen who directed several episodes of Kung Fu: the Legend Continues with David Carradine.

Expect No Mercy is loaded with some pretty terrific fight action as Blanks and Merhi take on a small army to save the day and some of the villains they confront include martial arts stars Anthony De Longis and Michael “The Kicking Machine” Blanks who just happens to be Billy’s real life brother. Michael also starred in one of my other 90’s VHS favorites Dragonfire which we’ll talk about on another installment of Action Rewind.

Laurie Holden and Wolf Larson

Now watching this film today (I broke it out on DVD and viewed it last night again) it certainly is dated but that doesn’t ruin the experience, at least it didn’t for me. The action is the name of the game here and in that regards, Expect No Mercy earns its belt colors in spades. The definitive highlight is the Blanks Brothers dual at the end which is a non stop display of martial arts mastery and features some of the best kicking combinations ever. The brothers leave it all out in the scene and it is one that action fans like myself watch over and over again. The two are evenly matched and the only downfall is that there fight towers over the final one between Blanks and Larson as Larson doesn’t quite measure up in the action department. You gotta love the fact that Larson spits out the film’s title to Blanks during the altercation which is always a plus in my book. How can you not love that?!

In all, Expect No Mercy is one guilty pleasure that martial arts action fans should partake in every once in a while. It features Blanks and Merhi at their best and it is crammed with enough fight action to satisfy even the most jaded of viewer. When you think of pre-DVD martial arts mayhem, Expect No Mercy should be at the top of your list!

Original VHS Trailer

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