Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: January 28, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Simon West Actors: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Mini Anden, Christa Campbell
nderneath its grittier, hyper-violent, modernistic shaky-cam exterior, “The Mechanic” is still a Jason Statham movie – for better or for worse. Remove the faux Tony Scott film editing techniques and the blood-laden frenetic action sequences and audiences are left with hand-to-hand combat, a scene or two of intricate driving, and the requisite clip of Statham removing his shirt. The brief gratuitous female nudity and the more brutal kills are new, but by the end, it feels oddly familiar. Even the interesting twists on the original storyline are cheapened from an unwillingness by the creators to commit to something a little different. Still, seeing Statham take down a roomful of people or witnessing a car crash through a bus hasn’t lost its appeal.
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a “mechanic,” an elite assassin who has no equal when it comes to killing. He carries out his missions quickly, efficiently and without complications. And there’s no remorse for those he kills – until he’s instructed to assassinate his best friend Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). Stricken with guilt upon executing his task, Bishop takes Harry’s estranged son Steve (Ben Foster) under his wing and begins to train him in his lethal trade. As his new student rapidly learns the merciless art of dealing death, Bishop begins to realize he may have been tricked into killing Harry – and Steve begins to suspect the true perpetrator of his father’s demise.
Finally, a studio has the brilliant idea to remake a mediocre movie. The original version of “The Mechanic,” made in 1972, starred Charles Bronson; it was so generic it was reissued later as “Killer of Killers.” It had very sparse action, little bloodshed, and an ambiguous group of mercenaries doing cryptic things for a nameless, faceless outfit. Essentially, all it had going for it was a unique, surprise ending. This new version examines the weaknesses of its predecessor and improves upon them: the relationship between Bishop and Harry is strengthened and made more poignant (along with the nice addition of a wheelchair for Sutherland, which instantly grabs more sympathy), the violence is tripled, and the action grandly intensified. There’s even a sex scene thrown in to win over target audiences itching for a sampling of every typical R-rated element. Perhaps the only unnecessary leftover tidbit is the retention of Bishop’s first name, Arthur, which sounds tragically dated.
The opening sequence expectedly demonstrates the hitman’s expertise, but fails to be anywhere near as thrilling as James Bond or a comparative assassin like Leon. From here the action and suspense heightens, making use of “Mission: Impossible” gadgetry and overly bloody, creative, and often humorously amplified violence. The stunts and destruction are effective and the fight choreography a clear imitation of “The Bourne Ultimatum” – a well-orchestrated and monumental improvement over the original. The touch of gentle piano music to contrast the mechanics’ lethal intentions is a welcome inclusion as well.
The final notes of the film uphold the theme of “when a killer grows a conscience.” They resonantly prove that anti-heroes are generally redeemable, even if cold-blooded murderers (though never completely merciless or cruel). The biggest shame, however, is the writer’s failure to stick to the original, uncompromising conclusion, which was undoubtedly altered to appease viewers and producers who can’t handle the notion of finality.
– The Massie Twins