Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: The Mechanic (2011) TH

He can do more than just fix cars

(Warning, contains some spoilers.)

Jason Statham plays an assassin named Arthur Bishop who's able to get in and out squeaky clean as he focuses on the job at hand without distraction. His only friend, Harry Mckenna, played by Donald Sutherland, works in the same covert business he does. A hit is put out on Harry and the company they both work for wants Arthur to personally take care of it.

The job was successful by making it look like carjackers but came with some suppressed anger afterwards. In the original '72 version Charles Bronson's character gets actively pursued and gives in because he sees a potential companion like himself who can keep up from being a long time loner and introvert. Instead, here, Arthur sticks around to instead help the man's son Steve Mckenna (Ben Foster) learn some responsibility and how to get away with revenge for "those" to blame through the best way he knows how to teach him: as a "mechanic" who covertly kills without a trace being left as to who did it or what really happened. Steve Mckenna in the original didn't pose as much of a threat as he was cocky, unemotional and cared nothing of his father, except here Ben Foster plays the character as an emotional wreck who wants vengeance. If anybody said they would have left the son alone, moved or killed him secretly knowing that you took his father's life and that he's a loose canon, raise your hand. It seems unlikely that a professional like Bishop would leave any loose ends untended and I'm not sure why they changed this important element in the story.

His trainee has a lot of work to get to pro status with his bad habits of sabotaging what he has, making impulsive decisions and taking unnecessary risk for no other reason than because he can--everything that Bishop isn't about, as he checks his emotions at the door and goes in with stern-faced calculation. Yet, that doesn't stop the mentor from taking his reckless trainee out on his own jobs possibly as a little pay back to the company for making him kill the closet thing he had to a friend. What ever happened to the trainee's want for revenge for some carjackers, who knows? Again, some of the transitions of the story in the remake were changed and cause this to lose a sense of purpose. In a one in a million chance (more like a cheap writing ploy) Bishop spots someone of interest who has ties to a past mission after escaping from a less than smooth job himself. What a small world we live in that you just sit down at the bus station and so happen to see the one man that's relevant to you without even having to make an effort. Must have been born with a third eye. The company is getting fed up, along with the trainee Steve beginning to put two and two together about who really killed his father if it wasn't inevitable enough. However, this is the Mechanic they're dealing with, you know, that cinematic guy who's faster, smarter and quicker on his feet than anyone or anything. Yeah, yeah.

This has a decent amount of over-the-top action and more bullets are managed to be fired than most westerns. The filmmakers were trying to sell the audience that this could be you taken under the wing of a hired gun. It beats the 9 to 5 job, you get drunk, sleep around, fire weapons, go out on high octane missions and, best of all, there are never any cops around and you get away with it. Did I mention all your opponents have terrible aim and you don't get shot despite only a short amount of training? Yep, just that simple. Ben Foster's character has some room to work with but not enough to be on par with "Hostage." It's still more than Jason Statham's role in how it feels like an out-of-the-box version of other modern action films. Not to mention his very own "The Transporter," which holds steady as the superior film with just as basic of a story and probably as much exaggeration, but much more fluidity and no silly deus ex machina writing tricks to distract.

This includes jumping off high things, property damage, candid wounds and blood spray--though it's not enough to save it in the end as there's very little that sticks, not even a charismatic villain to remember this by as they're cardboard personalities make it easier to murder them without growing a conscious. As a purely logical movie this remake doesn't entirely work. Check out "From Paris with Love," "Unstoppable" or "Faster" if you need a recent action fix that keeps it basic and unmuddled, while still balancing entertainment. Or I'd recommend just sticking with the original '72 version which pans out more fluidly even if it's a more gradual experience.

Director: Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider, When a Stranger Calls 2006)
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland
Website: IMDB