Okay, I admit, I’ve become a fan of Jason Statham, and so it’s possible I may like his movies more than the average moviegoer. I like Statham because he’s a convincing tough guy hero, and I believe it when he wipes out more than one bad guy at the same time.
That being said, THE MECHANIC (2011), a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name, is just OK. While it certainly showcases Statham’s talents, at the end of the day, it’s nothing special. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I did.
In this new version of THE MECHANIC, which I missed when it opened in theaters and only recently caught up with on Blu-Ray, Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a hit man, or “mechanic” who works for a secret organization that employs him and others like him to kill people. When the organization orders Bishop to kill his mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), Bishop seeks a meeting with his boss Dean (Tony Goldwyn) to verify this information. Dean explains to Bishop that Harry had betrayed the organization and was responsible for the death of several of their agents. As a result, he’s become a liability and needs to be eliminated.
Ever the professional, Bishop carries out his mission and kills his friend Harry. Afterwards, Bishop reaches out to Harry’s estranged son Steve (Ben Foster), who at first wants nothing from his deceased dad’s friend, but later changes his mind and expresses an interest in doing what Bishop does. Steve wants Bishop to teach him the business, but Bishop tells him no.
But then for some reason— guilt, perhaps? — Bishop changes his mind and takes Ben under his wing and trains him in the fine art of being an assassin. As the two men work together, they both make realizations. Bishop discovers information that contradicts Dean’s story that Harry was a traitor, while Steve discovers the truth about who murdered his father, setting up an ending that sadly is all too predictable.
I enjoyed both Jason Statham and Ben Foster in this movie. Statham does what he does best, which is act tough and kill people without batting an eye, and looking believable every second he does it. While some may complain that Statham keeps playing the same guy in his movies, I like his persona and have no problem with it. It’s what countless action stars have done before him, from John Wayne to Sylvester Stallone.
But as good as Statham is, it’s Ben Foster who delivers the best performance in the movie. As Steve McKenna, he’s not just some young kid emotionally distraught over the murder of his dad. He’s a hothead, a psycho in the making, and the more interesting thing here is these traits don’t get in the way of his being an efficient assassin. They make him better.
And this brings me to one of the things I didn’t like about THE MECHANIC. I didn’t quite buy the relationship between Statham’s Arthur Bishop and Foster’s Steve McKenna. Bishop is supposed to be mentoring this guy, and sure, he does teach him the tools of the trade, helping him to become a professional hit man, but because Foster’s performance is so riveting, I just didn’t buy into Steve as a guy who needed that much mentoring. He seems pretty confident and deadly on his own without any help from Bishop.
To me, Foster should have been on equal footing with Statham throughout this movie, and the two should have been adversaries. I would have preferred a story pitting these two guys against each other.
THE MECHANIC is the beneficiary of two fine performances by Jason Statham and Ben Foster. I like Foster a lot, and this is yet another in a growing line of his notable movie performances, which include 3:10 TO YUMA (2007), 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), and PANDORUM (2009).
In his brief screen time, Donald Sutherland adds some seniority to the film, and his Harry McKenna is an interesting character, one I wish had been in the movie more.
On the other hand, Tony Goldwyn as Dean makes for a rather flat villain. He gets to say a few threatening lines here and there, but he doesn’t really get to do a whole lot. As a result, THE MECHANIC really lacks a main villain. Goldwyn was more effective as the dad in the remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009).
THE MECHANIC was directed by Simon West, who also directed THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), a film I enjoyed much more than THE MECHANIC.
Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino wrote the screenplay. Wenk also wrote THE EXPENDABLES 2, while Carlino wrote the original THE MECHANIC with Charles Bronson.
The story here is pretty standard. From the get-go, you know that young Steve is going to discover that Bishop murdered his father, and you know that he’s going to be none too happy about it. It’s not too difficult to figure out where the story is headed, and so there’s not much suspense involved here. And I must say that the payoff at the end is nothing to write home about.
However, one part of the story I liked is the way Statham’s Bishop goes about killing his targets. He studies the various ways people die naturally, and so many of his hits are made to look like a natural death, to avoid any suspicion. Bishop is a very shrewd assassin and is quite the interesting character.
There are a couple of cool scenes in the movie, like when Steve takes down his target, shunning Bishop’s expert advice, yet getting the job done anyway. The brutal fight between Steve and the much larger man he’s been contracted to kill is one of the highlights of the movie. But there simply aren’t enough scenes like this in the film.
Yet, I liked THE MECHANIC, for the simple reason that I enjoyed watching both Jason Statham and Ben Foster. Sometimes, excellent performances in an average move are enough to save it. Such is the case with THE MECHANIC.
For Statham fans, this just might be enough.