Title: The Mechanic (2011)
Director: Simon West
Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland
So Jason Statham is trying his best to establish himself as THE action star of his generation, cause let’s face it, there aren’t many of those hovering around Hollywood, I mean not to the level of past action stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bronson and Norris. What actor’s are currently trying to establish themselves as the new generation of action stars? Well, let’s see, there’s The Rock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) who has decided to work for Disney now making films like Race to Witch Mountain (2009). I get it though. He’s trying to do what Schwarznegger did when he started to make comedies like Twins (1988) and Kindergarten Cop (1990). But come on, Tooth Fairy (2010)? That’s pushing things a little too far; almost too far. He is attempting to make a comeback to action with films like Faster (2010) and Fast Five (2011), but is it too late? The Rock still has to prove himself in my book; he still has to make that ‘great action film’ that will place him on the legendary action star status. Same goes for Vin Diesel, but again, with the possible exception of the Riddick films (which I love) none of his films are half as good as the ones made by the good old guys. And there in lies the problem with all these new action stars. They are just not making good films. Or even memorable ones. Statham I can respect a bit more because, right from the very beginning, he hasn’t stopped making action films. Statham’s got the persona, the looks, the attitude, the cool of an action star. Because an action star’s got to have the cool, there’s no denying that. Yet, I don’t feel Statham has made that great action film either. So here comes The Mechanic, a remake of Michael Winner’s The Mechanic (1972), yet another attempt of Statham’s to solidify himself as this generations action star. How was it?
Story is all about a hired killer called Arthur Bishop. Arthur is methodical in his killings; he makes them look like accidents, and he is in and out like the wind. No one knows he was even there. In Arthur’s own words: “What I do requires a certain mindset. I do assignments; designated targets. Some jobs need to look like accidents. Others must cast suspicion on someone else. A select few need to send a clear message. Pulling a trigger is easy. The best jobs are the ones nobody even knows you were there.” But one day he is asked to kill his mentor, the man who taught him everything about being an assassin. Unfortunately, one of his own rules is to follow the orders of his superiors no matter what, so he does it. And here comes the complication, Steve his ex-mentors son (not knowing that Bishop killed his father) befriends Bishop and wants to learn all about being an assassin. So Bishop, out of guilt decides to take the young dude and teach him everything he knows. Will Steve ever know that it was Bishop who killed his father? It's this question that drives the film, and makes the Bishop/Steve team an uneasy alliance. One thing I will say about this film, I enjoyed the chemistry between Statham and Foster's characters. Many go as far as to say that Foster steals the film from Statham in some ways, and as far as the acting goes, I have to say I agree.
I see what Statham’s trying to do by remaking a Charles Bronson film, and I get it. Just by doing a remake of a Bronson film he is trying to associate himself with Bronson’s now legendary legacy. I mean for those not in the know, Bronson was the ass kicker of his day, the silent type you didn’t want to mess with or you were going to pay, especially if you were a criminal. I mean, Bronson’s the guy behind Death Wish (1974)! Statham’s just trying to get some of that Bronson attitude rub off on him. Or maybe he just wants his name mentioned along side Bronson’s in every single review for this film in this way saying ‘I’m this generations Charles Bronson, how do you like them apples?’ Which is all fine and dandy, I mean trying to be the next Bronson isn’t a bad thing, but if you want to be Bronson, then goddamn it don’t water down the remake. Though to be honest, in these politically correct times we live in, the watering down of action/horror films shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a common thing these days. Face it my friends, action/horror films just aren’t the same these days. One look at action films of the 70’s and 80’s and you’ll see what I mean. Take one night and watch Death Wish (1974), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990) and Lethal Weapon (1987) and tell me you don’t see the marked difference. To use a tired phrase, they just don’t make them like that anymore. Was The Mechanic a victim of the watered down American action film?
Well, in some ways yes and in some ways no. Statham’s character is still a killer, but he only kills ‘bad guys’. He kills drug dealers and evil religious leaders who take advantage of their flock. He kills gangsters and hitmen, and you know how it goes with killing hitmen, “no matter what you do to them, you don’t feel bad”. So Statham plays it safe like that. Another marked difference between this film and the original is that Bronson played his mechanic as a guy feeling the ravages of age, he knows he is getting old, he knows that his days are numbered so he is looking for someone to accompany him on his missions and ease his workload. On the remake Statham is practically The Terminator. He is untouchable, nothing is going to happen to him because he is Jason Statham and nothing touches him on his films. He reminded me of Chuck Norris in Invasion U.S.A. (1985), you know, totally indestructible. There is no vulnerability to Statham’s Bishop. Contrary to the original, this film plays by
The most cliche scene you could put in your action film: The protagonist walking away from an explosion
But don’t get me wrong; in spite of this remake being a bit different then the original, it’s still a decent action flick with some cool action sequences. The fist fights are pretty intense, one takes place inside of a bus, I liked the closed quarters fighting in those scenes, there’s also a cool fight on top of a building which will give some watchers vertigo. It didn’t seem like they were using a lot of CGI in those sequences, kudos to them for that. Simon West the director behind Con Air (1997) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) delivers a slick looking action flick that is technically superior to the original, but lacks any of the balls that Bronson’s film had. The original mechanic was a more cerebral film, it even dealt with existentialist issues. Can we live in society under our own rules? Can we live in our own mind and ignore the world we live in? And what are the consequences of living by our own rules in this world? These were the questions pondered in the original yet completely ignored by the remake. The remake is just another action film. The original was bleak, dark and void of a happy ending. Sadly, this new Mechanic is playing by
’s rules rather than its own, but still, you know, watchable. Hollywood
Rating: 3 out of 5
Ben Foster says: "I can walk away from explosions too!"