Movie Review: The Mechanic (2011) D+

The Mechanic is one of those movies with Jason Statham. And that says a lot about any movie. You know it’s not slapstick, you know it’s not romance, you know it’s not drama, you know it’s not mystery…

Of course not because there is only one type of role Jason Statham can play: the indestructible vindictive badass assassin that will chase you to the edges of the world if you double cross him. Yes, The Mechanic is that type of movie – another action flick packed with explosions, bang bang, strangling, hand-to-hand combat… All the regulars.

Statham plays Arthur Bishop, the “mechanic,” which in the movie is a term used to label a person who fixes problems. Simply put, he’s a hitman. Bishop is clean and almost invisible. His execution methods are different and effective. When done right, his assassinations look like accidents and suicides.

When Bishop is hired to assassin a colleague (Donald Sutherland), his integrity remains intact. He carries on with the “fixing” and is left to instruct the dead friend’s son, Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), who becomes a protégé. Judging by the gasps and cringing, one of audience’s favorite scenes was when Ben wrestled with an antagonistic “mechanic” named Burke, a bulky fella standing at least two feet taller than slim Steve. That scene, which happened approximately halfway in the picture, was also one of my top picks. The concept wasn’t the cause of such amazement but the execution. The hand-to-hand fight was masterfully orchestrated; I still have an imprint on my brain of Burke throwing Steve headfirst into a display cabinet. Awesome.

This popcorn flick, produced by the Remake Division of Hollywood Inc., is a reissue of a 1972 film, with Charles Bronson starring in the title role. Although both movies have major differences, the structure of the plot remains essentially the same. Unlike most remakes, however, I think this 2011 version felt more organic than the original movie, which had some incongruent, dismissible moments.  For example, the 1972 film had a scene of a girl slitting both her wrists to test if Steve loved her. He didn’t. I vividly remember that scene, which was as long as it was dull; and it had no payoff because, after dismissed, the girl never showed up again and that storyline went down the drain as fast as it surged. But this remake seems to have all the parts connected, albeit not always satisfying.

In 1972, Bronson played a better mechanic – suave and elegant – but his performance was undermined by a poor screenplay. Statham played the role while impersonating all other characters he’s ever played, also with the same hairdo, but perhaps with more meticulousness and less recklessness. In fact, in both movies, the mechanic is a stylish man that appreciates fine wines and listens to classical music. This contradiction in their personalities is at first interesting but hardly enough to sustain the film. The meandering plot gets lost and confused on its own  twists and turns.

The ending ended too fast. When the villain is identified, he’s vanquished in a split second. Naturally, there’s mayhem and havoc as it happens but a buildup with a stronger resolution was expected. In addition, at the very end there was a deviation from the original film that felt, well, contrived but acceptable because this time around it was Jason Statham. The Mechanic flows like an ephemeral summer flick – not worthy of much consideration during this award season but still watchable if you have nothing to do on a Wednesday afternoon.

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