By now you pretty much know the drill when it comes to Jason Statham action vehicles. He plays a largely charisma-free lead, usually a hit man or other stealthy dude, gets wronged in some way, and takes it out on, well, everyone and everything. The Mechanic, a remake of sorts of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name, plays the formula to a tee. The movie, like almost all of Statham’s films, is a mediocre, occasionally entertaining exercise in brutal violence, F-bombs, and the always-unnecessary-but-thrown-in-there-for-the-hell-of-it sex scene.
Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a professional “mechanic,” aka elite hit man. His job is to take out the world’s scum in a variety of ways, be it stealth or made to look like an accident; whatever it takes to keep his identity a mystery. When his mentor, Harry (Sutherland), is killed early on, Arthur takes matters into his own hands and goes after those responsible. Complicating matters is Steve, Harry’s son, who wants to learn Bishop’s craft. The two make for a formidable team as they wage war on the agency responsible for Harry’s death.
Director Simon West, whose last major release was the dismal and awful When a Stranger Calls remake, stages a few good action sequences, but the screenplay, by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino, keeps muddying the waters. A crucial plot point is known by the audience early on, and it’s simply a waiting game from there until the rest of the characters are made aware of it. It’s not until the script finally stops taking itself too seriously, as it enters the second act that the audience can finally sit back and enjoy some action. West’s directorial style is slightly aggravating, as extensive use of the blurry camera takes over many scenes. A climactic scene, during which an entire city block is essentially destroyed, does deliver.
Statham himself has the tough-guy routine down to a science. Endless close-ups of his blank stare pervade The Mechanic, but it’s really tough to root for a guy who never plays a well-defined character and a lot of the time comes across as a bad guy himself. Ben Foster’s Steve is basically a clone; an alcoholic desperate for revenge. Some laughs are to be had from some hilarious lines of dialogue from Tony Goldwyn (“I’ll put a bounty on your head so big that your own reflection will want to shoot you in the face”) and Donald Sutherland does add some classiness to the proceedings before being promptly dispatched.
The Mechanic is cut from the the same mold as all of Statham’s offerings. Avid fans will certainly like it more, but it’s really not more than a mediocre action flick with a few impressively staged sequences. As a January time-waster you could do worse, but it’s long past time to start demanding more of this genre than shoddily-written revenge stories shot with the bungee cam. Statham is a serviceable action star and capable enough to break the mold. I’ll keep waiting.
Studio: CBS Films
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.
Theatrical Release: January 28, 2011
Directed by: Simon West
Written by: Richard Wenk & Lewis John Carlino.
Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Chase