John Mercy has been released from prison after doing his time. Forced to stay in a near by hotel for recently released criminals, everytime John falls asleep he wakes up with a missing body part.
"Mercy" is a movie I've been wanting to see for awhile, mostly because of the premise of a man who wakes up each time with a missing body part, sounded fascinating. I really didn't know what kind of movie to expect with a synopsis like that, as it can work as either a horror or an art film. Though Patrick Roddy decides to not only blend both, but rather an overlooked genre these days, noir. Now I'm no expert when it comes to noir films, as I haven't really seen many of what would be considered staples of the genre. I especially haven't seen many modern flicks to use that style, other than "Singapore Sling". Which is the first movie that popped into my head when I heard that "Mercy" is in the noir style, but I didn't realize how similar in style the movies were going to be. Which is a good thing, since I consider "Singapore Sling" to be one of the great, under-appreciated movies.
John Mercy (How cool is that name?) has been released from prison for a crime that we aren't aware of, at least not in the beginning. What we do know is John did his time, but those around him, particularly his Parole Officer, seems to think that he doesn't deserve his current state of freedom. Though, how free is John truly? While he may not be in prison any longer, it seems his new surroundings aren't that much better. Living in a city without any way to leave without causing himself to be sent back to jail. Stuck in a hotel for released criminals, where there are no visitors and seems to be as cold as his former cell. Not to mention being stuck in a metalworks factory. John's only escape is getting a club soda at a local bar, and looking at a postcard of an open country with the words, "God's Country" spread across the top of it. The hope of being able to eventually make it there seems to be the only thing that keeps John going, while he moves from one inclosed location to another.
With that being said, the movie does take its time with setting up the characters and getting the story in motion. Those who have the short attention spans will undoubtedly struggle to get through "Mercy", especially considering the missing body parts angle doesn't come into play until the last half of the movie. Though Patrick Roddy keeps our attention by creating one of the more atmospheric pieces that I've seen lately. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that there are no moving shots. The camera remains static in either wide angles or in close ups, which is a big contrast compared to modern filmmaking. As it seems that more movies are shot on steady-cams, more so than anything else. While having the camera remain in one place may sound boring, Roddy manages to shoot the scenes with unique angles that it creates a very interesting perspective. Not to mention the movie is in black and white, so given that with the background pieces, the movie is has a very stark look to it. With the help of creative lighting, the sets often contain heavy shadows, particularly with the night scenes, which you can't help but be reminded of the old German impressionistic style. To tie it all together, "Mercy" is given a wonderful score, which is always welcomed to help provide a nice break of having a soundtrack be composed of the usual rock and metal bands. Even the score has its own personality in the movie, as the story twists and turns, and John's world starts to unravel into a living nightmare, so does the music. Going from a very soft but creepy tone, to bizarre one that sounds as if it is being played backwards.
The movie would be lost though if it wasn't for the performance of Gary Shannon as John Mercy. There are a handful of characters that play an importance to the story, but really this is all about John and no one else. A man who we want to care for and sympathize with as he is trying to live a normal life after doing his time. Though it's hard to since we known he is a criminal, but not sure what he did exactly other than something that was particularly harsh by the treatment he receives. Especially when we know the nightmare that awaits for him, and which does eventually arrive, of waking up, incomplete.
While it may not be the most exciting horror movie compared to what has come out recently, "Mercy" holds its own as one of the more unique films. With its dynamic cinematography and musical score, down to the excellent job of an actors ability to portray a doomed man. The compelling story and mood set forth by a mystery left to be solved by the audience, this is a movie worth checking out. Especially one that deserves more credit than it gets, as it seems to have slipped through the cracks.