The Mechanic (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
18May/110

The Mechanic (2011)

Andrew INDIFFERENTJason Statham has certainly carved himself a specific niche in Hollywood.  Not to say that it's a terrible thing, but should a man of his considerable charisma be forced to replay the same steely-chinned action role again and again?  Granted, he brings enough to the table to change the game with each role (compare The Bank Job with Crank if you're doubtful about his skills), but the level of coldness he brings to The Mechanic just isn't enough to make it interesting.

Or fun.  I like it when his movies are more fun than grim.

I can't really blame the guy.  The Mechanic is a remake of an old Charles Bronson flick so a certain amount of cold professionalism is certainly required.  But I wasn't really interested in much of anything with this remake.  Certainly not so much that I feel inclined to check out the original, but there's a certain level of intensity to this remake that keeps it from being too redundant.

Statham is Arthur, a mechanic - or in slightly more violent terms, an assassin that "fixes" things so that they run smoothly.  We're introduced to his line of work in a fairly nifty opening scene where he takes out the leader of a drug cartel by hiding at the bottom of his pool in scuba gear.  There's bit of macabre humor afterward when the drug lord's bodyguards, wondering why their leader has suddenly stopped moving, are reassured when his legs and arms stop kicking forward as Statham maneuvers the body like a marionette.

Even with my objections, I have to admit that Statham and Foster make a fairly intimidating duo.

Sadly, the macabre humor that works so deliciously well in that opening scene is not sustained beyond those frames.  Arthur meets with his mentor Harry, played by Donald Sutherland, who is around just long enough to establish that he's the mentor and is not long for this world.  Sure enough, Arthur receives orders to kill Harry after Harry betrayed the assassin cartel on a mission, and Arthur is the one to do Harry in.  Quickly enough, and one looming shot of a cross later, Harry's son Steve happens upon Arthur and after some bonding wants to get into the "business".

Theirs is a relationship that has been done in better hit-man/protegee movies, but Ben Foster is always a welcome screen presence.  He has faced a similar typecasting situation in recent years but has yielded some chilling performances.  But there's not much for him to do here, when he's not drinking he's screwing up the trade as he learns from Arthur.  Sadder still, once you know that he's Harry's son there aren't really too many places that the film could, or seems willing to, carry his character arc.

Then there's the matter of the overall presentation of the film.  There's enough inventiveness with a few of the fight scenes and moments of explosion that are appropriately cool, but The Mechanic suffers from the orange/teal syndrome of digital alteration.  Even in an alley, in the middle of the night, while Steve has sex with a particularly willing bar patron, it's as orange as the freshest Florida stock.

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I was hoping that a mid film target called "The Messiah" would drag this back into the fun territory, but no such luck.

Statham does an efficient job with what material he's given, but I really wish that director Simon West had given him more room to be interesting.  What's strange is that West is responsible for Con Air, and that film certainly did not suffer from a lack of interesting personalities.  It still boggles my mind to some degree that people want to see this kind of talent assembled just to run the rails on a plot that's as old as Clint Eastwood (if not older).

The Mechanic is ruthlessly efficient.  Statham and Foster give interesting enough performances to capture your attention for most of the time, but are mostly cogs in the machine designed to spew out fire and 'splosions.  Not that that's bad, sometimes it can be pretty interesting or ludicrously entertaining, but it just doesn't work well enough here.

Ah well.  After a cursory glance at his upcoming projects, it's not like Statham won't have another 5 or 6 chances to get it right.  I'll still look forward to each and every one of them though.

He's just that damn good.

The Mechanic (2011)
Directed by Simon West.
Screenplay by Lewis Scott Carlino and Richard Wenk.
Starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster.

Posted by Andrew

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