Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Mechanic (2011)

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 Hollywood’s rules: Nothing happens to the good guy, and above all things, the good guy cannot die. But here’s something that Bronson knew while making his film: he knew he wasn’t playing the proverbial good guy, he was a bad guy, playing by his own rules. You play a game of death, you expose yourself to death itself, you are always living under the assumption that you might bite the bullet at any moment. Statham mechanic doesn’t have that vulnerability. He is a killer, yet he lives in a mansion, he lives without a conscience apparently because he looks so calm and happy whenever he isn’t out there killing. Come on dude, you’re a killer. And your training a young lad in the ways of assassination, grow some fucking attitude, take some risks with your character. Surprise the audience. As it is, the film holds no surprises. Statham is indestructible, a killer with no conscience for his actions. For all intents and purposes, he is a robot. Indestructible action heroes can be fun to watch in cheesy action flicks, but this film plays it dead serious, there’s no fun to be had here. This wasnt supposed to be the kind of film that had the indestructible action star, this was to be the one about the troubled, angst ridden protagonist, trying to face issues of his own mortality.   

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 Hollywood’s rules rather than its own, but still, you know, watchable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 

Ben Foster says: "I can walk away from explosions too!"


Unknown said...

Well said! Excellent review. You nailed what I like and don't like about Statham's films. I agree that the major problem with this film is that his character is indestructable. Where is the fun in that? And hats of to Ben Foster who usually appears in indie films to appear in a generic action film like this an inject it with some much needed edginess and intensity.

I agree with you about Statham carrying on the tradition of action stars from the previous decades. The Rock really dropped the ball with all those Disney films and FASTER seems like a step in the right direction as was that FAST FIVE film he did. As for Vin Diesel... what happened to that guy? You can tell his career hasn't panned out as he hoped when he went back to the FAST & FURIOUS franchise. I sure hope the next Riddick film is good 'cos the second one was a bit of snooze.

As for Statham making a great film... You may be right but I think the first TRANSPORTER film is close. That is a pretty awesome action films. Actually that whole series is quite good.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, one of the assests of this remake is definetly Ben Foster's performance.

Yeah, it was good to see both The Rock and Vin Diesel in Fast Five, and the movie itself was fun and fast paced, I actually ended up enjoying that one. Something totally unexpected for me because I really never liked the Fast and the Furious franchise.

The Rock looked like a tank next to Vin Diesel! I hope the rock gets to making an action movie thats worth a damn, the problem I think with these new action guys is that they dont team up to work with good directors. Arnold worked with freaking James Cameron and John Milius! Know what Im saying?

The good think about Fast Five being a major success is that were definetly going to be seeing another Riddick adventure, let's hope its awesome. I'm crossing my fingers cause I like those films.

I recently re-watched The Transporter (for my action month thing) and I enjoyed it more than I thought. I remember hating the second one though, havent seen the third, is it worth a damn J.D.? Let me know!

Thanks for commenting!

Kev D. said...

Remaking Bronson
movies makes me a sad panda. If someone remakes Death Wish, I'll probably go on a vigilante trek of my own.

The 60s and 70s had HARD looking dudes. Most of them were ugly as sin... and Statham just can't hold a candle to a guy like Bronson. Probably because Bronson would have taken it and set Statham on fire.

The 80s had excess and action stars that couldn't act or even speak properly. Sly, Arnie, Dolph... these guys sounded as dumb as they looked. And even if Statham can try and work the cockney thing like in Lock Stock, it just isn't the same as "GET TO THA CHOPPAH".

Also, Statham was in Crank, and it was one of many recent "action" movies that I was unable to watch straight through to the end. Fucking terrible.

I think I'll just watch the original Mechanic. Maybe watch Violent City just for fun too.

Franco Macabro said...

Wasnt Stallone trying to get a Death Wish remake off the ground a couple of years ago?

I hear you about action stars from the 80's not being able to speak english properly, the other day I was watching CYBORG and on it Van Damme says "I dont want to see die" and I was cracking up!

While action stars from the 70's were tough looking, the 80's was all about brawn and muscle. Arnold, Sly, Brian Bosworth, Van Damme, they were all ripped. With the exception of Bruce Willis and Segal, that was the quintesential action star from that era.

Nowadays, action stars can be guys like Adrian Brody, they have a certain vulnerability to them. Sam Worthington seems to be shaping up to be an action star of his generation.

I'm not a big fan of the Crank movies either, I saw the first one but the editing and quirky camera moves kind of piss me off a bit. I havent seen the second one, but I hear good things about it, then again, it's probably more of the same.

Violent City, never heard of that one, I'll have to look it up, is it any good?

Thanks for commenting!

Unknown said...

The third TRANSPORTER film has its moments but nowhere near as good as the first two, IMO. The first one is still best by far.


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