The Mechanic

I feel fortunate to be able to say I’ve never been betrayed by someone I respected, depended upon or loved.  Of course there have been moments of hurt and anger, but never outright betrayal.  Considering my emotional makeup, I’d probably curl up into a little ball on the floor if someone very close to me betrayed a confidence or completely threw me under the bus to cover their own failure.  And while I might entertain acts of ultimate revenge in my fantasies, I don’t believe I would formulate a plan and carry it out to extract a metaphorical pound of flesh from whoever did me wrong.  The subjects of this week’s movie “The Mechanic” are not as reserved or forgiving as I am.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) works for a shadowy organization that sends him around the world to kill people.  Arthur is a mechanic, someone who fixes problems for others, and is very good at his job, able to make his assassinations of organized crime bosses, terrorists and pedophiles look like accidents or natural causes.  He reports to Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), a former military man who now oversees Arthur and other assassins.  Arthur’s next assignment is to kill Harry.  Concerned and confused, Arthur contacts the head of the organization, Dean Sanderson (Tony Goldwyn).  Sanderson tells Arthur that Harry is selling out the company, giving information to their enemies that caused the deaths of five other killers who were on a job in South Africa.  Despite his feelings for Harry, Arthur takes the job and kills his mentor, making it look like a car jacking.  Arthur runs into Harry’s troubled son Steve (Ben Foster) at the cemetery.  Steve drinks too much, has a temper he can’t control and was estranged from his father.  Feeling guilty, Arthur takes Steve under his wing, teaching him the ways of the mechanic.

“The Mechanic” is a remake of a 1972 film starring Charles Bronson.  According to the synopsis on Wikipedia, the story of the original film is significantly different from the new version.  While the story in this modern take has been dumbed down, the action has been amplified and put on a heavy course of steroids.  There are some exciting and imaginative action pieces in the movie.  There are also some that defy an enormous amount of logic. 

“The Mechanic” falls back on the well-worn gimmick of the hero (or anti-hero in this case) is nearly unbeatable in a fight.  Arthur and Steve are the only people who can shoot with any accuracy and Arthur is rarely touched during hand-to-hand combat.  He also possesses the ability to create complicated attack plans at a moments notice.  This really pulls all credibility out from under the story when Arthur cooks up a scheme on the fly to kill a very well protected target in the streets and alleys of New Orleans.  The plan goes off without a hitch, no stray cars or pedestrians getting in the way and no cops responding to reports of automatic weapons fire.

Statham plays his assassin the way Statham plays nearly all his characters:  intense and in charge.  I can’t argue with the way he plays this part as he’s given very little to do other than fight and look menacing.  He has a brief scene with Sutherland early in the film that offers a glimpse into the relationship between these two men.  It’s about the most fully fleshed out dialog scene in the whole movie and it lasts about a minute.   Ben Foster is dark, damaged and menacing as Steve.  He’s a risk taker who seems to have a death wish, at one point taking on an opponent double his size.  With all his demons, it seemed an odd choice for Arthur to take Steve on as an apprentice; and guilt over killing Harry doesn’t seem like enough motivation to overlook his shortcomings and lack of training.  Tony Goldwyn gives uber-baddie Dean Sanderson the slick veneer of a good used car salesman.  While able to sweet talk and threaten in the same sentence, Goldwyn also isn’t given much to do, despite his pivotal role in the film’s central section.  The emphasis through the whole movie is on the guilty mentor/angry student relationship of Arthur and
Steve.  This would have been fine had something interesting happened between the two men.  It doesn’t, unless you count a couple of action scenes, including one that had a stunt that should be tested on Mythbusters.  The film’s story ultimately collapses when a massive coincidence to expose the company’s betrayal of Harry and Arthur rears its ugly head.  While this leads to another fight scene, it also forces the audience to make a choice between common sense and what is unfolding on screen.

“The Mechanic” is rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.  The number of fights, stabbings, drownings, shootings, beatings and so forth is too great to count.  There’s a lot of violence and much of it is graphic.  There are two sex scenes, one much more graphic than the other.  The nudity is usually fleeting except one longish view of a woman’s bare backside.  Foul language is common throughout the film.

“The Mechanic” gets off to a good start and establishes the beginnings of a very interesting and exciting movie.  It then slides into mind-numbing territory as it leans more and more heavily on action instead of character.  This will just fine for many of Statham’s fans, but I would have liked to seen more suspense and intrigue and less of the same old down and dirty violence.

“The Mechanic” gets three guitars.

Crazy roommates, redeemed gangsters and underground adventure are on tap for screens this week.  Vote on the next film I see and review.

The Roommate—Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly star in a thriller about a deranged college freshman who becomes obsessed with her new roommate.

Biutiful—A man embroiled in shady dealings is confronted by a childhood friend, now a policeman.

Sanctum—A deep-sea diving team, headed by a father and son, gets trapped in an underwater cave system, and face a two-day battle for survival.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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