Does Statham’s remake of the Bronson hitman pic hit its mark?
A remake of the 1972 movie of the same name starring Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, The Mechanic stars Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop, a “mechanic” (elite hit man) renowned for his stealth and efficiency in eliminating targets. Bishop is a gun-for-hire for (what else?) a secretive, powerful agency connected to all the right people and institutions.
A loner whose only companionship is the occasional tryst with a hooker, the bayou-based Bishop’s world is rocked when his old mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), is killed. Reluctantly teaming with Harry’s ne’er-do-well, violent son Steve (Ben Foster), Bishop sets out to train his newfound protege in the deadly arts. Together, they’ll go after the agency (led by Tony Goldwyn in the thankless “soulless official” role, but who still gets to deliver the film’s most outrageously hilarious threat).
It may not be saying much, but The Mechanic is the best film director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Con Air) has made. Infused with a smooth style and pacing perhaps resulting from its Louisiana locations, West delivers an action movie that’s a lot more dramatically effective and entertaining than its trailers and tired premise would lead you to believe.
Statham seems to know he has zero range, but he’s also one of the few true working action stars left and his low-talking, flat-delivery tough guy persona is actually quite fitting for a role previously played by Bronson. Statham knows how to kick ass six ways from Sunday, and he gets to do plenty of that here. He has decent enough chemistry with Foster and Sutherland, the latter essentially replaying his doomed mentor role from his last collaboration with Statham, The Italian Job. Sutherland, though, classes up most anything by his mere presence.
Foster provides viewers with his latest unhinged screen character, a sleazy but wounded soul whose alcohol consumption in this movie is almost of Barfly or Leaving Las Vegas proportions. Steve didn’t necessarily love his dad, but it was still his father and he’s not going to let his murder slide. His envy of Bishop being Harry’s “chosen one” more than he was is explicit, but he’s nevertheless enamored of Bishop’s lethal skill set. Foster’s first kill in the movie is an especially brutal one that literally drives home the point.
The tension between Statham and Foster is well done and gripping, but the action’s the real star here over the nuances of acting and writing. West and Co. fashion a number of high-octane set-pieces, including McKenna’s aforementioned first kill, a botched assault in a high-rise, and the climactic attack on the agency. While The Mechanic doesn’t retool the formula of a hit man movie, it certainly serves it up better than expected.
by Jim Vejvoda