The Mechanic (1972)
The Mechanic (1972)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: November 17th, 1972 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Michael Winner Actors: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn, Jill Ireland, Frank DeKova, Celeste Yarnall




he Mechanic” opens with incredibly dramatic, booming music, introducing a rather long, uneventful initial scene that follows the lead character as he enters an apartment to spy through a window with a telescopic lens. The man is Charles Bronson and the director is Michael Winner, a teaming that would lead to the highly successful “Death Wish” franchise, beginning two years later. Due to the intriguing hitman premise, relative obscurity, and modest critical and commercial success, “The Mechanic” is a prime candidate for a remake (one has been slated for an early 2011 release), which could improve the suspense and action but will likely forgo cleverer dialogue and certainly alter the abrupt, striking conclusion. And merely quickening the pace and amping up the violence won’t replace this film’s most endearing aspect: the brooding performance from Bronson.

Shaggy-haired, thinly-mustached, highly skilled assassin (or “mechanic”) Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) plans out his paid murders with care, precision, perfectly concocted chemicals, and hi-tech explosives and weaponry. He’s a man of few words, few emotions, few friends, and fewer remembrances about his checkered past and questionable upbringing. He comfortably lounges and trains in his luxurious, hilltop palace, thanks to his father’s wealth from his position as a similar “judge,” a man who settles arguments for powerful, dangerous people – the crpytically referenced “association.” It’s a lonely, cold profession (almost completely isolated save for the prostitute, played by Jill Ireland, who he regularly visits between jobs), inherited by only the select few who can handle it.

Even his longtime acquaintance “Big Harry” McKenna (Keenan Wynn) isn’t safe from becoming a target of the mysterious, unnamed outfit. Continuing to pose as a friend of the family, Bishop accompanies Harry’s son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent) to Louise’s (Linda Ridgeway) house – she’s a disillusioned young girl who wants to slash her wrists when Steve’s affections wear off. After witnessing his act of icy abandonment, it’s not long before the seasoned hitman takes Steve under his wing to train him as an “associate” partner for his deadly jobs.

Like “Death Wish,” “The Mechanic” is a little slow moving, thanks to character development that explores and observes the nature, philosophy, and reasoning behind killing. The idea is to study motives more than to witness random violence and senseless destruction, even though many scenes of mayhem make their way into the film. Assassins all have different rules, many adapting to what will allow them to get away during a heated moment. For Bishop, it’s not about the money – it’s about looking in from the outside and feeling omniscient. His aim for bringing in a partner is both to gain companionship and to pass on his legacy when mortality begins to sink in.

The film climaxes in Italy where a lengthy bout of photographing, tailing, and researching habits and movements of the mark takes place. Unfortunately, it doesn’t create an equivalent amount of nerve-wracking tension. Donning wetsuits and scuba gear and hoisting shotguns, the mercenary duo momentarily reenacts a James Bond adventure, complete with shootouts, heavily armed henchmen, detonations, car chases… and a tractor. While “The Mechanic” is not a spectacular picture, the ending is highly amusing (despite being predictable), giving a simple story an unforgettable final note of singular creativity.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10