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The Mechanic (2011)

January 28, 2011


written by: Richard Wenk (screenplay) & Lewis John Carlino (screenplay and story)  

produced by: Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, David Winkler & William Chartoff

directed by: Simon West

rated R (for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity)

92 min.

U.S. release date: January 28, 2011


This month marks the one year anniversary of CBS Films, a film production company that formed in 2007 and only recently started releasing feature films. Even though they have a recognizable name, it hasn’t been going well for them. The three films released last year (“Extraordinary Measures”, “The Back-Up Plan” and “Faster”) all performed poorly, and this excessive remake of an all-but-forgotten 1972 Charles Bronson hit man flick of the same name may get a similar reception. If action fans couldn’t get behind Dwayne Johnson in “Faster” than it remains to be seen whether or not they will support Jason Statham’s latest action endeavor.   

Statham is actually the perfect guy to remake a Bronson lone hit man film. He looks nothing like that famously leathered (and weathered) face, so he can kind of do his own thing with a familiar role or he can pretty much do what he’s been doing in all his recent action movies. Quietly kicking butt with his smoldering stare and looking quite pissed at everybody. It’s unfortunate that this script doesn’t delve any deeper into the character Statham plays like the original did. Just like the original, the main character is detached from society, living quite well from his earnings as an assassin. But we never really see much of anything underneath the physicalities of this man of action, so we’re left with no concern for him.   

MECHANIC Jason Statham

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a hit man who keeps to himself in a decked-out crib off a Louisiana bayou where he kicks back to Strauss on LP. He travels all over the world as a “mechanic”, a guy who fixes things. In other words, he takes people out, usually his victims are unsavory individuals given to him by a secret organization. Arthur’s only friend is Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland, fitting nicely into Keenan Wynn role), somewhat of a hero and mentor to Arthur, who also worked for the same organization. Their smarmy boss, Dean Sanderson (Tony Goldwyn, playing another scumbag) gives Arthur a new job, ordering him to take out Harry, informing Arthur his friend has gone bad. Arthur reluctantly takes the assignment, which shows us right there why this person should not have friends.

At the cemetery, Arthur meets Harry’s only son, Steve (Ben Foster), who was always a disappointment to his father. Steve is a narcissistic time bomb, furious at whoever killed Harry (even though they didn’t have a relationship) and wants to seek vengeance. It’s hard to say if Arthur feels bad for Steve when he agrees to train him as an assassin, since Arthur doesn’t feel. So, then we’re left to wonder why this methodical stone cold killer, who lives a life of order, takes in this unpredictable wildcard. He even has him move in with him, for reasons unexplained.

It couldn’t be guilt, since there is never any trace of Arthur feeling anything. Maybe the script is asking more than Statham can give, it’s not as if he’s well-known for his emotive performances, after all. The rest of the movie provides lazy recycled training montages, violent kills, passionless sex, and more violence. Sure, there’s some exciting stunts and some crazy fight scenes, but we’ve seen it all before. Who is supposed to be impressed or wowed by it all? Someone who hasn’t seen a lot of movies, I suppose.

MECHANIC Jason Statham Ben Foster

And to think, I was kinda looking forward to this. I like the two leads well enough, especially Ben Foster, but there was nothing for me to like here. After I witnessed the explosions and predictable betrayal, I was left with a by-the-numbers bore. It made me wonder why this was remade at all, if I was only going to be subjected to something I’ve seen countless times before. It made me wonder if Statham’s career path will go the way of Steven Seagal, with each of his films consisting of interchangeable plots. I’ll still see his movies though, I mean, Statham is Lawrence Olivier compared to Seagal.

It’s not all his fault though, director Simon West (“Con-Air”) is to blame. He has an aggressively slick style but any time he stops to try to conjure up something genuine, it just doesn’t work. There’s a scene which shoes a troubled Arthur standing on his balcony, conflicted with the task of killing Harry. It does nothing. The camera just sits there while the score by Mark Isham asks us to feel. Sorry, not feeling it.

MECHANIC Ben Foster Jason Statham

I was surprised to find out that the same producers and screenwriter from the Bronson film worked on this remake. Why? Other than box office, I fail to see the point. If there was a new perspective or a change/update in the overall story, than I could understand. But there’s nothing new except the stunts and special effects, which makes one wonder if there is a step-up from the original. I’m sorry, I thought remakes are made to provide something better, different or new. 

“The Mechanic” needed to go in a different tonal delivery altogether to offer viewers something more than just what they expect. The story could have gone one of two ways, by either injected some knowing humor (like “Red” from last year) or going to a darker place (like Michael Caine did in the recent “Harry Brown”), but that wouldn’t be catering to a big opening weekend at the box office. Sometimes even what you expect isn’t all that rewarding. For that, I guess I’ll wait for Statham in the sequel to “The Expendables”.

RATING: * 1/2




6 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendi F. permalink
    January 28, 2011 5:35 am

    My favorite scene from the original is when they watch that gel slit her wrists and sit around waiting for her to die. Please tell me that’s in there?
    I’ll see it anyway this weekend for my love of both leads. Ben Foster is the only Disney actor who can intentionally play creepy.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      January 28, 2011 11:09 am

      I wish that scene was in there. It would’ve brought a nice disturbing/existential edge to it. I like the leads too but I left the theater underwhelmed. Lemme know what you think.


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