Directed by Simon West
It feels like there's a more interesting film buried under the surface of The Mechanic. This modernization of the 1972 Charles Brosnon flick of the same name works as a slightly above-average action picture, but settles for mentioning, instead of questioning, the existential loneliness of being a hit man. Jason Statham (Crank) tackles the role of Arthur Bishop, an assassin who specializes in engineering the perception of cause of death. Bishop's film-opening hit sees him lure a wealthy businessman to the bottom of the man's in-house swimming pool with a submerged watch, drowning the target and making a clean escape. An alternate opening unwisely has Bishop dispatch a guard on the way out, which would've prematurely sullied his presentation of mechanical precision to the viewer. Back home, after a pointless sex scene with a prostitute, the weakly characterized Bishop meets with friend and mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), providing a little background information on the secret organization of killers they work for and setting up the introduction of Harry's somewhat unstable son. For dramatic convenience, Bishop's next target is Harry, and after a convincing conversation with the higher ups, Bishop does his job, with Harry's blessing, making it look like a carjacking. Meeting Harry's son, Steve, at the funeral is where the film comes to life, at least as much as it ever does. Ben Foster (The Messenger, 3:10 to Yuma) once again demonstrates his insistence on treating every role with the utmost professionalism and dedication. His portrayal of Steve is like a raw nerve exposed, professing to Bishop that he's going to find the next random carjacker and kill them for revenge. There isn't enough scripting power, either in plotting or exploration of morality, to back the available acting chops, nor does Statham reach beyond his stoic/heroic comfort zone to balance the weight of his scenes with Foster, with Bishop training Steve as his apprentice. The action is mostly well choreographed and is the obvious focus of director Simon West, being the subject of the only behind-the-scenes feature. Aside from a few extended scenes, that's it for features. It's a shame West didn't even entertain an alternate ending. The post-climactic tag is a frustrating, unnecessary cop-out that holds a boot to the throat of that superior movie lurking underneath, which it turns out (thanks Wikipedia!) would've been a direct remake of the original, instead of this sanitized missed opportunity.
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