'The Mechanic' an Unrepairable Action Lemon
Jason Statham isn't a terrible actor but it's too bad his movies end up in the cinematic scrapheap.
There are movies that are bad but ultimately end up being forgivable or forgettable, and then there’re movies like The Mechanic--movies so bad they’re actually memorable.
Due to some listless acting and uninspired action direction, The Mechanic is simply faulty beyond repair. It is the kind of junk that tends to show up around this time of year slated for Hollywood’s scrap yard.
The Mechanic is technically a remake of the 1972 action film of the same name, a movie that you’d have to be a member of the Charles Bronson fan club to remember. Yet instead of paying homage to Bronson or the classic 1970s action movies of his collaborator Michael Winner (The Death Wish series), director Simon West (ConAir, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider) endeavored only to make a run-of-the-mill action film, mixed in with a bit of moody bro-drama. He missed his target on both counts.
Missing its mark
Jason Statham is Arthur Bishop a mysterious man who works as a “mechanic,” a well-oiled killing machine who murders for an organization that is most often just referred to as “they.” When “they” ask him to kill his mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), he abides only to end up eventually training the black sheep son of his former Yoda. Bishop’s protégée Steve (Ben Foster of 3:10 to Yuma and Pandorum) briefly breathes some life into this film as an unhinged junior hit man but when a revenge subplot kicks into gear The Mechanic stalls.
The Mechanic is supposed to be one of those movies where characters constantly get double-crossed and have to fight their way out of the situation. It’s a movie where most of the main characters are “agents” working for some undefined collective of assassins. Think The Bourne Identity as a B movie, with a bit of The Transporter thrown in for good measure. Yet The Mechanic fails to maintain attention with either ass kickings or intrigue. The movie bores for its first half when it pretends to be a buddy drama about two assassins and then looses steam once they begin assassinating.
Usually you could expect a little more action or wit out of Statham, but this script gives him nothing to work with as a methodical, slightly cultured (he listens to classical music) assassin training a troubled and unpredictable apprentice who will likely betray him one day. You’ll have to see the film to understand just how badly the inevitable climax is handled, but trust me, the ending draws the entire premise into question.
Plot engine stalls
Though it may seem promising for a few early scenes, The Mechanic goes motiveless and villain-less for entirely way too long. Though West makes some clunky gestures at setting up two rounded characters, his attempts to add substance just end up falling flat.
The blame doesn’t lie entirely with Statham, who does little more than listlessly go about his job and brood. West has a tin ear for dialogue and apparently no idea how to keep the pace humming. This seems to be a case of action directing gone wrong, though it doesn’t help Statham’s case that he is completely outshone in the charisma department by his younger co-star, Foster.
Foster, who last year made a serious name for himself in The Messenger, and his onscreen father, acting veteran Sutherland, are far too good for this material. They’re clearly just in this for the paycheck, playing second fiddle to the well-loved British bruiser.
You’d think by now that Statham would have been in enough movies to know what was par versus sub-par Jason Statham work. Though I’d like to see him in movies at least as entertaining as Crank or The Transporter series, Statham lately has almost become a machismo subgenre of his own--one that is increasingly lagging as he seems almost incapable of picking worthwhile roles.
Though Statham’s delivered another clunker for this junk-filled season of movies, I have every confidence he will one day be saved from himself if only he could appear in a movie that’s about a little more than guns and cars, perhaps like his early work in Guy Richie’s gangster comedies.
Though The Mechanic may pretend at times to be something slightly deeper, the last half of this hit man flick puts it far below even lowered expectations.