‘TRAINED TO KILL’ (aka) ‘NO MERCY MAN’

For the life of me I can’t understand why I haven’t heard of this righteous heft of down home drive in shit kickery before. Where were the so called arbiters of bad taste in order to fast track me to this double-barreled hootenany. While the plot bares little scrutiny; big lug (Steve Sandor) returns to his family ranch from the killing fields of ‘Nam with a nasty case of the battle crazies, and his fragile psyche is about to take another clusterfuck; as a group of reprobate carnies, led by the towering Prophet (Rockne Tarkington) began an ill considered sortie on the Sandor homstead only to find themselves repelled by Sandor’s dog-faced, gun happy pappy. And it this most meagre umbilicus from whence the film’s fragile narrative is born.

Thus far there appears very little to merit any enthused cineaste musings; but - very swiftly one becomes aware that while the song remains the same, director, Daniel Vance plays a mean riff and delivers a two fisted knock out that is destined to become a re-discovered drive in classic; ‘Trained to Kill’ isn’t a case of being so bad it’s bad ass, but so darn good its current nil props obscurity is a real injustice. I’ve been a fan of the enigmatic, Steve Sandor since his gonzoid turn in ‘9th Configuration’ and he equips himself well as the physically robust, yet psychologically tremulous, Olie Hand, and give’s what is in fact a woefully stock character some tangible depth; probably more than the Spartan plot requires.

The final act is a real doozie, and it would be entirely remiss of me to discuss it in any great detail; needless all this gratuitous violence is resolved in a satisfyingly gratuitous, alpha male manner, with all fists and guns blazing; methinks, John Milius would approve. There are many films from this most halcyon era of exploitation with greater visibility, but few are as deserving; this is no doubt due to, Daniel Vance’s assured, digression-free authorship being far surer than most. ‘Trained to Kill’ is lean, drive in cinema at its best; a blunt actioner with absolutely no truck for dull ass talk, but generously swollen with a monstrous throbbing hard on for wide load fisticuffs and ode-to-Peckinpah gunplay. I’m sure many will balk at its dumbfuck premise, but for those stout-hearted seekers of psychotronic plenitude, ‘Trained To Kill’ delivers low-brow theatrics with ammo to spare. I certainly wouldn’t wish to imbue this modest outing with unmerited grandeur, but it wouldn’t be too much hyperbole to state that the fevered genesis for, Paul Schrader’s ‘Taxi Driver’ & ‘Rolling Thunder’ might well have blossomed after a alcohol-befugged twilight viewing of ‘No Mercy Man’.

‘Walking Tall’ may well have been the ultimate proletarian call-to-arms, but, Joe Don Baker will have to scootch his pork-fed ass and make a little more room on that good ol’ boy pantheon, as the mighty, Steve Sandor can waste a pug stink hippie with the best of em!

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