"Mercy" (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Ellen Barkin plays a detective who investigates the grisly murders of women who have some things in common - they are all into a secret lesbian S&M group, they all have the same shrink, and they are all into painful sex.

The movie is driven by the fact that Detective Barkin comes to identify not only with the victims, but with the killer as well, because she starts to understand what makes them all the way they are, and she realizes that she herself is only a hair away from the same circumstances. She is hetero, but she is attracted to women, she enjoys painful sex, and we think maybe she had some of the same childhood traumas as the victims. This identification leads to a near-lesbian encounter with one of them, and a bizarre climax wherein Barkin kills the killer with a knife in an obviously erotic scene - the stabbing looks like sexual thrusting. Then, as the woman dies, Barkin takes her hand! The identification is so complete that the wounded Barkin and the slain killer look like twins (at first you can't even tell which one is Barkin).

This movie is an odd bird. It was made with a good budget, by professionals, and features some decent names. It is well photographed, often showing a touch of genius and artistry even in the most perverted scenes. Some of the scenes which I described above incorporate some heavy-handed symbolism, but it is symbolism, and it's surprising to see such attention to literary detail in a lurid straight-to-cable murder mystery filled with nudity and depravity.

BUT ...

and this is a big BUT ...

the movie has a great structural weakness.

It got all the small things right, but missed out on the most important element. The essence of any murder mystery is the actual solution to the crime. In this case, the murder was committed by a background character whose motive was unknown to the detectives as well as to the audience. When you find out who did it, you won't care. In fact, I'm betting you won't even be completely sure who she is. (I had to reverse the DVD and watch a couple of scenes a second time.) The solution was so obscure that the detectives in the film could not come up with it. All of the victims were patients of the same psychiatrist, who seemed to be a complete wacko, so the detectives considered that shrink to be their #1 suspect. While the detectives were investigating their perfectly logical suspect, they simply stumbled on the real killer, and only because she was killing their red herring before their very eyes! Like the detectives, you will eventually stumble upon the identity of the real murderer, but you will have no idea WHY she did it. I mean none at all. Not even when the explanations are complete and the credits are rolling.

One totally weird element: the last two minutes have almost nothing to do with the rest of the movie, and are delivered in a completely different tone. After the case is solved, and the killer slain, the movie spends a couple of minutes in a anti-climactic scene crusading against child abuse, which was the cause of the women's' problems in the movie. This portion is completely dignified, and clinical - basically a public service announcement - following 92 minutes of sordid erotic entertainment. It's almost as if the writer were back in the 50s, searching for some "redeeming social importance" to avoid an obscenity charge.

So is the movie good on balance? No, not really, at least not based on completely objective criteria. It's too slow and meandering, the solution is annoying, and the post-script comes out of left field.

But ... did I like it? Yes. The film also has some great moments and some great touches, and a plethora of nudity. I enjoyed it. A guilty pleasure, to be sure, but pleasure nonetheless. Just keep the FF button handy to ease you through the purple patches.


DVD info from Amazon

  • fullscreen version

  • widescreen version (anamorphic, 2.35:1)


  • Peta Wilson - rear and full frontal
  • Karen Young - frontal
  • Laura Daans - frontal
  • Wendy Crewson - full frontal and rear
  • Claire Burton -full frontal
  • Ellen-Ray Hennessy - one breast
  • Ellen Barkin - clear view of her pubic area from the side when Peta is kissing her mons.
  • at least two other unidentified women

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.1
  • made for cable
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Only an average noir mystery, but one of the all-time greats of nudity!

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