In a South American cartel compound, a wealthy drug jeffe dives into the blackened waters of his swimming pool. As his guards carelessly look away, he is caught by a scuba-geared assailant and drowned. Changing from scuba gear to a kitchen uniform, the assassin slips past the dozens of armed guards, who stare bewilderedly at their expired leader.
It’s ridiculous, yes, but it’s also pretty damn entertaining.
The Mechanic casts Jason Statham (The Expendables) as Arthur Bishop, a disciplined hitman who excels in making high-profile kills look like accidents.
He works for an organization, The Company, which hires out professional killers to eliminate drug dealers, gunrunners, corrupt world leaders and other dregs of society.
Bishop may be a stone-cold killer, but he only exterminates bad people.
The assassin’s only human relationship is with his company contact, Harry (Donald Sutherland: The Con Artist). When The Company decides that Harry has to go, Bishop gets the assignment and eliminates his only friend.
He is a professional, after all.
At Harry’s grave, Bishop meets Steve (Ben Foster: Here), Harry’s hard-drinking, excessively violent and mildly unhinged son. In a flash of stupidity and guilt, Bishop takes the troubled young man under his wing and trains him in the art of the kill.
Steve takes to the violence like a homicidal maniac to mass murder, but he lacks Bishop’s cold calculation and precision. As the two form their partnership, Bishop discovers that he was used by The Company to eliminate Harry for profit.
Turns out there’s honor among assassins.
Steve and Bishop take on The Company, using more ammunition and explosives than most military campaigns. It may not end well, but it will sure end bloody.
Jason Statham has long been glowering his way toward becoming the king of action-packed B-movies. So it seems fitting that he takes over for Charles Bronson in the remake of The Mechanic. Like Bronson, Statham possesses a gritty, angry, everyman quality that makes epic acts of violence seem believable.
Statham doesn’t have as many moments of wry humor as did Bronson, but he does have abs, which he flashes whenever the plot lags.
Director Simon West (Purple Mountain) knows enough about this genre to keep the violence coming, developing character while heavy arms are discharged. It’s not a bad decision, and the brisk and bloody pace makes for thrilling kills and tight chase sequences.
The Mechanic does get a few things wrong: The film tries too hard to revel in B-movie glory. Instead of explaining The Company and its seemingly unlimited funds, the movie dismisses them as a sort of Murder Inc. populated by black-hat bad guys. This does a disservice to our hero Bishop, who we know kills only bad people. His character is just one step below a rogue cop who plays by his own rules.
The Mechanic also seems to believe that women exist only to writhe naked on top of Statham. That’s not so much a disservice to our hero as to women in general. Even Bond girls get a couple of lines in their movies.
Still, West is a skillful orchestrator of chaos, and Statham is more than up to the task of kicking baddie butt while scowling. The violence is brutal, featuring plenty of blood gushes, brain spatter and snapping bones, but that’s to be expected in a shoot-em-up.
I appreciate the fact that West and the studio made their action film worthy of an R-rating instead of watering down the violence of the subject matter for a more audience-friendly rating. A hitman screaming Gosh-darn-it I’ll kill you! while shaking his fist in the air isn’t that intimidating.
The film is pushed from standard popcorn fare to a decent action gem by the presence of Foster. His Steve is a charmingly unhinged killer, who is quick with a quip and quicker with a blade. Sure Steve’s psychotic, but he’s funny too.
The Mechanic won’t be collecting any awards for acting or screenwriting. But it’s breezy, bloody action is a fitting tribute to Charles Bronson and the scowling toughs who came before him.