Special to The Dagger
The latest Jason Statham project finds him playing the type of intense action role that has made him famous, this time in a remake of a Charles Bronson vehicle from 1972.
Elite hitman Arthur Bishop (Statham) is given the task of eliminating his mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), at the discretion of his superiors. Completing the task, Arthur takes Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) under his tutelage. The training runs afoul of his superiors who begin a campaign to eliminate Bishop as well. To complicate matters, Steve learns that Arthur killed his father and plots his revenge.
The best part of this film by far is the action sequences, as you might expect. Tight, intense and brutal in their execution, they are phenomenal to watch. What is unexpected is a refreshing lack of dramatic death sequences during the fights. None of the characters flail around like a Hans Gruber henchman, but simply drop when shot. While it may seem minor, it adds a flair of reality that ratchets up the intensity.
Unfortunately, everything good about the action is scuttled by an abysmal script. To the writers’ and director’s credit, they work with the best Statham has to offer—which involves making him say and act as little as possible. He works his full range of acting talent, from looking surly, to looking surly while driving, and occasionally looking surly while saying no more than five words at once.
The narrative is little more than a vehicle to move between action sequences, training montages and back to action sequences. The training montage is especially horrid, as we watch Steve go from a “great disappointment” in everything he does, to shooting guns in the backyard with Bishop, to free climbing the outside of a skyscraper and taking down a highly trained operative with his bare hands. While I don’t have great expectations for a storyline in this genre, it doesn’t have to be this absurd. Did the storyboard simply have cards that read “Explosion,” “Shoot Big Guns,” “Naked Chicks,” and “Shoot Guns with Bigger Explosions?” Even “Robocop” managed to inject some depth with its religious overtones.
That said, “The Mechanic” is an enjoyable movie to watch. It moves quickly and its intensity pushes the genre forward. Praise is due to director Simon West for utilizing the ancillary characters, specifically Sutherland, to carry the dramatic elements while letting Statham focus on his strengths. I hold out hope that Statham will someday break out of this typecast he has backed into and prove he truly does have the acting chops he showed glimpses of in “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.”
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: Rent it. Unless you like paying ten bucks to see this:
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Simon West. Written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino.
Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.
Runtime: 1 hour, 32 min