The Mechanic Directed by: Simon West Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 28, 2011
PLOT: One of the world's best assassins decides to train the son (Foster) of his former boss (and last target) while trying to figure out a conspiracy involving his employer.
WHO'S IT FOR? Moviegoers who gravitate pretty easily towards generic action movies, guns, and most importantly, Jason Statham doing Jason Statham-y things.
EXPECTATIONS: Ben Foster is an intense talent on the rise, while at the same point Statham has been become pretty stagnant. Still, could this be a solidly entertaining action movie, with just a skeptical release date?
Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop: He’s less mechanic, and more of a, as Harry calls him, “damn machine.” I’m not referring to Bishop, but actually Jason Statham. Just like an assassin dispatches nameless forgettable targets and then moves onto the next mission, so does the bald-headed actor. He swoops from one action movie role to the next while maintaining the exact same wardrobe and even tone of voice (always speaking like he’s walking away from one of his now-dead targets). The dedication that Statham has to playing the same kind of generic action movie character is probably similar to Stanislavski, or actually, Steven Seagal. Like Seagal, Statham has just about attained the same set of super-powers as an on-screen presence that will prevent him from ever meeting a deadly fate (unless one calls condemned straight-to-DVD a deadly fate). Any sense of rawness earned from his earlier performances has been watered down, with only his main objective, ass-kicking, now looking like a cheap imitation of himself. This is just another job for him. Score: 3
Ben Foster as Steve McKenna: Action movies are a fine fit for this rising actor's taste for extreme characters. Still, a Jason Statham movie isn't the place to do it. Arthur trains Steve to be the next Jason Statham, and eventually he copies the aggressions, and even the way Statham carries himself. They both wear sunglasses a lot too. But we all know Foster will always fail at this mission because Foster doesn't have an accent. Score: 4
Donald Sutherland as Henry McKenna: Yes, Donald Sutherland is in this movie. It's a pretty fleeting moment, but that beard , along with the worn down look on his face, isn't something that one can forget easily. So don't step into The Mechanic too late, (or get that first popcorn refill), or you'll miss Donald Sutherland rolling around on a wheelchair for the first ten minutes. Thankfully, his personal weapon (which is engraved in Latin and translated on the otherside) is shown every now and then to remind us of the character, even when the story itself seems to be forgetting about him. Score: 3
TALKING: The Mechanic delivers a handful of moments where stuff gets blown up, but it also provides some unintentional explosions of laughter with its hokey dialogue. January isn’t even over yet, but we’ve got one of the worst lines from 2011 - and it’s a bad-guy mouthful: “I’m gonna put a price on your face that’s so big the next time you look in the mirror your reflection is going to want to shoot you in the face.” In second place, there’s this zinger, which is delivered by a cool-headed Bishop after he is threatened: “Save the fuel – we're coming to you.” Score: 4
SIGHTS: The action becomes progressively more entertaining, with the final big sequence almost making a matinee ticket worth it. Throughout, in both reckless brawls and pep-less gun battles, the editing is a bit bumpy. Oddly enough, The Mechanic eroticizes weaponry more than it does actual sex - a random act of coitus is thrown in towards the beginning of the movie to try to supplement the movie's testosterone, but this is actually achieved better by the loads of slow-mo shots starring guns and itchy trigger fingers. Score: 4
SOUNDS: The film’s score uses bluesy guitars whenever it can to assist in completing the film’s New Orleans aesthetics. And because all assassins apparently have a soft spot for classical music, Bishop is shown playing a delicate piano piece by Schubert (on vinyl!) multiple times. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: The duo's final mission finally succumbs to the blissful inanity awaiting that's been The Mechanic since the stubborn flick began. The body count piles up like a video game, the explosions are extra-fiery, and the whole event sounds like a fireworks factory being attacked by rocket launchers.
ENDING: Schubert bomb, sucker!
QUESTIONS: Who the hell is paying for these multi-million assassinations of religious figures anyway? Oh, and that version of Chicago looks awfully like Los Angeles ... Anywho, I'm going to have to remember that "meat in the sink" trick next time I interrogate a family.
REWATCHABILITY: Not soon. If I were to be a part of a second viewing, I’d probably just nap until the second half kicks up.
Though the concept of being a “mechanic” means to have tact, this movie has none. In fact, when it’s trying to take being an assassin seriously, it turns those moments (and its drama, more specifically) into dead weight. When it’s not putting Statham into a brief fight, the film relies on imagery that has been worn down when it comes to being “bad-ass,” involving Bishop’s strange affinity for classical music, his entire collection of guns, or Bishop sitting in his modern abode, looking like he might actually be thinking about something. Thus, a disappointing chunk of The Mechanic becomes faux macho, regardless of how wild the fist-fights try to be, or how much less a sh*t Statham seems to care, about anything.
If the movie were to take that cue of indifference from Statham sooner than later, it might be more successful. The sloppier the assassinations get, the more that The Mechanic gravitates towards being watchable fun. Eventually, the movie finally concedes and provides an explosive finale that destroys everything in its sight. It might be all over the place, but it’s at least more on target for what something as unspectacular as The Mechanic should be aiming for.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10