Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: The Mechanic (1972) TH

You won't find this mechanic in the phone book

This is an early '70s crime/action/thriller, so there aren't going to be an insane amount of edits and the picture is going to be more focused on fleshing out the story than giving motion sickness or temporary epilepsy. It includes some extended shots to make the viewer feel more at home than cutting right to the chase and moving from temporary place to place. There are zoom ins, interconnected shots, bell bottoms and side burns for that contemporary time stamp that it can't escape, though that doesn't take away from it being an effective character driven piece that still holds up today.

The audience is introduced to the inner working of a "mechanic": someone who disposes of bad guys by making it look like an accident. Charles Bronson easily sells the part as Arthur Bishop with his rugged and tough looks, as well as a sarcastic and reserved outlook. Like he's perfectly capable of giving out harm at any time, but also has a certain amount of measurement and philosophy to what he does to make a system out of it. Bishop is a loner who doesn't show his emotions, which includes not speaking for the first fifteen minutes of the film and only first to his friend Harry (Keenan Wynn) who's having some trouble with the organization they work for. Harry knew Arthur's father well and he wants him to speak on his behalf to smooth things over, though the organization still makes their final decision by sending him a hit packet on Harry.

The arrogant son named Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent) could care less of his father's passing as he was a "pusher, pimp, thief, arsonist" and precedes to be as cocky and spoiled as he was before with raging parties and no sense for responsibility. A close woman called him and said she's going to kill herself for his attention and sympathy, though instead of showing concern he arrives with Arthur to watch with morbid curiosity. This sets up the ground work and with some active pursuit on Steve's part, including doing adrenaline junky type activities together, Arthur sees that he might have it in him to do the impassive line of work he does as a mechanic and takes him under his wing as an associate and possible companion.

They patiently study their target's habits and wait it out for the perfect opportunity by finding a hole in their security. They plan one way and the job goes another, leading to the organization being a little worried that Steve is on board without their permission and in turn this leaves a possibility that he might ruin what's supposed to be covert operations in the shadows, not a motocross chase during broad daylight and where witnesses can see. To smooth things over they end up in Rome, Italy to do a "cowboy job," which means their target needs to be immediately taken out at whatever the cost, accident or no accident. From what starts out as a training and character development piece with partnership in the making turns into a climactic finale with a heated shootout with car chases and explosions when the characters get pushed against a wall. If that wasn't enough a twist happens, where one of them has an ulterior motive, but like a calculated game of chess so might the other.

The cinematography, music and pacing are all well timed out. More times than not the camera and music are doing more talking and sharing than the players. It gives the film a solid backdrop and a particular atmosphere with extended strings and intermittent piano to make it intriguing and put all the clandestine operations into their respective places. This has some relating factors that include skipping the court system to see deserving bad guys immediately receive justice like "Dirty Harry" ignited just a year prior. It shows someone live the high-life, make their own hours, kill with purpose, sleep with escorts without consequence, though all at a cost of not having a productive social life with some consistency and true relaxation for what's around the next corner. Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent put on interesting performances though not all of the co-stars are very notable, with some that instead perform like caricatures of their type. There is also some misplaced dry humor when most of the film is rolling with a more serious structure. This has an abrupt ending but then again it's a cold business and closes the curtains more accordingly than, say, "The Italian Job," which ended up in the air.

Director: Michael Winner (Chato's Land, Death Wish, The Sentinel)
Starring: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn
Website: IMDB