REVIEW: The Mechanic [2011]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 93 minutes | Release Date: January 28th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: CBS Films
Director(s): Simon West
Writer(s): Richard Wenk & Lewis John Carlino / Lewis John Carlino (story)

“You want me to kill him, not rape him, right?”

Say what you will about the caliber of flicks CBS Films has thus far churned out, but do not deny the fact they are unafraid to show graphic violence and almost seek the hard-R rating when others balk at the prospect. Faster started the action trend and The Mechanic continues it with an even darker tone. Enlisted to helm the remake is director Simon West, a man relegated to mostly television fare since his fun debut—a favorite of my family—Con Air. In the past two years he has set the feel for both “Human Target” and “The Cape”, adding some flair and hopefully proving himself worthy of another go-round in Hollywood. I’m not going to say his newest is great or that studios need to hire him immediately; no, I’m just saying that CBS is showing signs of consistency in what they are trying to bring to the table. Action fans will be delighted to see what has been crafted; it’s the best the studio has delivered thus far.

Don’t expect to be enthralled by a heavy duty plot or any twists and turns—if you don’t figure out what is going on when Jason Statham’s Bishop and Tony Goldwyn’s Dean meet soon after the cold open assassination, maybe you shouldn’t leave your house. Bishop is a ‘mechanic’, he kills people for a living, and he is very good at his job. Mentored by a now elderly, wheelchair-bound Donald Sutherland (as Harry McKenna), all the highly sensitive jobs from Dean’s corporation seem to find themselves on his plate. A consummate professional, he is prepared at all moments of a mission, carefully planning his moves whether the job entails secrecy, dramatics, or deflection. Bishop knows his role and he knows that one has to be vigilant and remorseless to survive the career. If the file delivered to his hands shows a familiar face, he knows there was a reason and that if he doesn’t do it, someone else will.

Right from the start we get a look into why Statham is today’s best action antihero. The camera follows around a man with obvious power as he enters his villa and decides to take a swim with armed bodyguards on every level for protection. Like a well-oiled machine, Statham takes him out, escapes unnoticed, and hitches a ride to safety as though he’s performed the act a million times in his sleep. Living in a house approachable only by boat—a gorgeous, glass-walled abode filled with contemporary design and a modern turntable to play classical music at the completion of a job—he lives a sequestered existence in peace, working on a vintage car in his garage, awaiting the next mission. A loner who knows all the angles, his ability to repress guilt is finally tested and feelings manifest that may at first expose weakness. But this is Statham. Any sign of compassion is done sternly, his kill or be killed instincts never waning, no matter the situation.

Statham is on his game, but even that can get tiresome if nothing counteracts the seriousness. Most of his films—especially the Transporter series—use a comic tone to bring out a few smirks and nicely timed sarcastic retorts, but The Mechanic is very deliberate in its portrayal of him as a humorless professional. As a result, we’re introduced to McKenna’s failed potential son, Steve. Played by Ben Foster, the role is a perfect companion to Bishop, lending a messier aspect to spice things up and cause problems. Emotional to a fault, vengeance lives in his heart for the murder of his father and it becomes his lone reason to stay alive. So, Bishop turns from student to teacher, reining in the short fuse to become deadly. Foster ends up being the highlight, wanting to go all in and oftentimes putting himself way over his head. While that means cuts and bruises for the character, it means extreme action-heavy fun for us. Foster vs. Jeff Chase (another assassin named Burke) is worth admission alone—from their ‘courting’ straight through to the ‘bedding’.

Quickly becoming a viciously bloody affair, I think the strength of the lead performances earns the bleakness. We’re talking about assassins here—they kill. Sometimes it is quick and painless, other times it’s a dogfight. The Mechanic has it all, progressing through mission to mission until the employees finally discover the necessity to kill their employer … he is gunning for them too after all. West keeps things stylish with clean fight scenes and impressive stunts like the two men jumping off a skyscraper or Foster getting thrown through every piece of furniture in a room. Kinetic energy is infused by a couple ‘under the influence’ sequences with Foster; blurring, lens flares, off-kilter angles aplenty. He attempts the same with a sex scene between Statham and Mini Anden’s Sarah (the beautiful Carina from “Chuck”), but it just comes off as clutter and gratuitous, adding nothing to the story. Anden is a prime suspect for bringing in some sex appeal for the guys, but the movie truly succeeds in its want to depict the brains, skill, and aftermath of a hit. To that end, I really do think it succeeds.

[1] Jason Statham (as ‘Arthur Bishop’) stars in CBS Films’ THE MECHANIC. PHOTO CREDIT: © 2011 CBS FILMS
[2] Ben Foster (as ‘Steve McKenna’) stars in CBS Films’ THE MECHANIC. PHOTO CREDIT: © 2011 CBS FILMS
[3] Mini Anden stars as Sara in CBS Films’ The Mechanic (2011)

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