”The Mechanic,” the new Jason Statham star vehicle, is a very loose remake (remagined in current Hollywood parlor) of the 1972 Charles Bronson actioner, which was part of a whole cycle of revenge pictures.
At its best moments, “The Mechanic” is silent, letting the action set-pieces (some of which really thrilling) do the job, and in this respect the movie, a winter popcorn flick, delivers the goods in a straightforward, unpretentious way.
“The Mechanic” is structured and ends in a way that suggests a potentially viable franchise, particularly if the first movie is successful at the box-office.
Statham, who was the youngest and most energetic actor in Stallone’s retro actioner “The Expendables,” get to play a dominant role, which suits him like a glove.
Statham is Arthur Bishop, a “mechanic” who is best in the business, so called as an elite assassin, who behaves according to a strict code, which some might consider both immoral and amoral. He is known for his unique talent for eliminating targets in a clean, unobtrusive manner. It’s a job that requires professionalism in the narrowest sense of the term, based on the use of expert skills in the speediest manner and total emotional detachment.
Once the job is done, Bishop disappears for a while—until he is assigned another lethal mission.
The screenwriters, Richard Wenk (“16 Blocks”) and Lewis John Carlino (1972’s “The Mechanic,” story also by Lewis John Carlino), make sure that the assignments and targets are varied enough to sustain interest.
Early on, we get some dialogue scenes between Bishop and his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland), who’s on a wheel chair. Sutherland is such a good actor that he grounds his brief and cliché role in gravitas that’s missing from the rest of the saga.
Turning point occurs when Harry is murdered, and for the first time in his life, Bishop gets upset—or shows some feelings. For his next assignment, he chooses a risky, self-imposed job, seeking to punish those responsible for Harry’s death.
Plot kicks in, and Bishop’s mission gets more complicated in unanticipated ways, when Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster, who was so good in “The Messenger” and “3:10 to Yuma”) approaches him with the same vengeful goal, eager to know who killed his father.
Determined to learn Bishop’s secrets of the trade, Steve vows allegiance and loyalty to Bishop, a man who has always acted alone, but now can’t turn his back on Harry’s son. From this point on, the story becomes a male buddy feature, marked by clear relationship of a mentor and protégé. A methodical hit man, Bishop takes Steve, his impulsive (and initially not so cool or tough) student deep into his world, profession, and lifestyle.
Soon, Steve begins to suspect that not all is right with Bishop and his code and a cat-and-mouth thriller evolves, based on deceptive appearance and behavior. In the end, those hired to fix problems might be the tragets themselves, and it’s not exactly clear who is the hunter and who’s the hunted (and huanted), not to mention who would emerge triumphant.
The milieu and culture of the film are clearly male-dominated, and all the characters (good and bad) are males. However, perhaps out of fear of alientaing the female contingency, the tale contains two brif sex scenes between Bishop and a call girl he meets at a bar. Needless to say, they don’t do much–execpt for interrupting the flow of the otherwise steady action.
To describe “The Mechanic” as a high-concept flick is an understatement. And though director Simon West (“Lara Croft,” “The Rock”) helms in an utterly functional and impersonal way, he moves things quickly so that we don’t have much time to think about the characters or their actions.
Opinions may divide regarding the status of “The Mechnaic” in Jason Statham’s growing body of work, which includes the “Transporter” and “Crank.” Both of these actioners, which put Statham on the international movie map, have their admirers.
From generation to generation: The film is produced by David Winkler, Bill Chartoff, and Rene Besson. David and Bill are sons of Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, respectively, who are this movie’s executive producers, alongside Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Boaz Davidson.
Reportedly, it took over 15 years to bring a new version of the 1972 genre classic “The Mechanic” to the screen. Back in the 1970s, a decade dominated by Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies, Arthur Bishop was a character that belonged to its times, a lonely hit man who seeks human contact and companionship. To that extent, he takes on an apprentice but that need for a fuller, more humanistic life becomes is risky and might result in his downfall.
The 1972 picture was more successful in the international marketplace than domestically, though within a year after its release, Charles Bronson became a mega star with his violent film series, “Death Wish.” In the 1980s, the new VCR, Cable and DVD markets broadened the exposure of Bronson’s “The Mechanic” among younger males, and a fan base emerged.