review for Mercy on AllMovie

Mercy (2009)
by Phillip Maher review

Some films entertain. Some films educate. The best films do both. This film does neither. The characters of Mercy occupy a universe which, for most human beings, will seem as alien as the world of Star Wars or Avatar. All of the inhabitants of Mercy-land, which looks suspiciously like Hollywood, are financially independent Caucasians under the age of 40, who happen to be preternaturally attractive and romantically available. What's more, the female variety of this species consistently exhibits an extraordinary behavioral anomaly which science is still struggling to explain -- they are all helplessly attracted to lead character Johnny Ryan, played with coiffured machismo by Scott Caan, the screenwriter, star, and self-appointed deity of this bizarre, containerized cosmos.

Ryan is a wildly successful and critically acclaimed writer who specializes in novels about love, which would seem to make him the cinematic equivalent of Nicholas Sparks. Shockingly, however, the "real" Johnny Ryan does not believe in love, as evidenced by his winsome tendencies to wager with his cronies over which gorgeous babe he'll have sex with next and to casually boast, "I've never met a woman I wanted to spend ten minutes with." Naturally, the ladies find his brutish charm irresistible, but despite having an incessant selection of lascivious supermodels to chose from (not to mention infinite wealth and effortless career success), Ryan never seems quite satisfied with his Shangri-la existence -- that is, until he meets...Mercy. That's right, you probably thought that the title referred to "mercy," meaning "compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power," but, in a wickedly clever bit of wordplay, it's also the name of one of the central characters. Mercy, played by Wendy Glenn, a TV actress who made a regrettable choice for her film debut, seems at first to be immune to Ryan's magnetic misogyny, until, inexplicably, she's not immune anymore and dutifully succumbs to his relentless advances. In an effort to artificially manufacture some suspense from this ridiculously conventional premise, the timeline of the film is fractured so that we know that Mercy and Johnny are no longer together, and are left to ponder what might have happened to tear such a perfect partnership asunder. Unfortunately, someone evidently forgot to inform first-time director Patrick Hoelck that this device relies on the audience having acquired some empathy toward the characters, which seems unlikely at best.

Every film has at least one redeeming feature, and in the case of Mercy, it comes in the form of a semi-poignant scene between Scott Caan and his father, James Caan, who plays Ryan's cynical alcoholic father, neatly sourcing and validating his son's bitterness and distrust of women. For moments at a time, the conversation between the Caans ripples with hinted resentment and disguised accusation, providing an otherwise disingenuous script with a provocative bit of authenticity. Hopefully, Scott Caan was able to work out some issues by writing this film, but it's difficult to justify his insistence on inflicting his therapy on the rest of us.