Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Simon West
Stars: Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn.
Anyone planning to see this rather unnecessary remake of the old Michael Winner/Charles Bronson flick from 1972 should do themselves a favour and skip it altogether. Go and hire the original instead! Not that The Mechanic was a great movie in itself, but it seems like a masterpiece compared to this noisy, fast and furious, gratuitously violent, and ultimately pointless remake.
The original The Mechanic was, arguably, one of the better collaborations between Bronson and Winner (Death Wish, etc). It was more of a character study of a professional killer who plied his trade effectively and was able to make deaths seem like accidents. The role of Arthur Bishop was tailor made for the weathered, craggy faced, taciturn Bronson, who gave one of his more subtle performances as the cold-blooded killer who was ultimately betrayed by his mysterious employer.
The role has been re-jigged to suit the bombastic testosterone driven style of macho action hero Jason Statham, who lacks any sort of subtlety. Here he blows up a lot of stuff and kills a lot of people in violent fashion, most of whom deserve what they get. But there is little chance of any of his hits being mistaken for “accidents”. He wreaks a trail of destruction through New Orleans, where much of the film was shot, and the damage he leaves behind makes Hurricane Katrina seem like a mere gust of wind.
Bishop has just killed his mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland, wasted in a brief appearance) on the orders of his boss (Tony Goldwyn, aiming for sinister but coming across as merely smug). Bishop takes on McKenna’s estranged son Steve (Ben Foster, recently seen in The Messenger, etc) as an apprentice, teaching him some of the tricks of the killing trade. Steve is keen to avenge his father’s death, but. is thankfully unaware of Bishop’s role in his father’s death. While he proves to be a keen student, he is also something of a loose cannon, impetuous, and a mercurial hot head with substance abuse problems.
But the odd couple relationship here fails to fire and there seems to be little chemistry between the cool and humourless Statham and the brooding, twitchy Foster. There was much more tension in the relationship between Bronson and his protégé, played by then rising young star Jan Michael Vincent.
Director Simon West has proved a dab hand at this sort of high-octane action film in the past, with the superb Con Air, etc, to his credit. Here his direction is brisk and muscular, all flashy edits and an energetic visual style that can’t completely disguise the rather thin plot.
Writer Richard Wenk (Just The Ticket, 16 Blocks, etc) has reworked Lewis John Carlino’s original script and refashioned it into a cliched, out and out action film aimed purely at today’s generation raised on ultra-violent and kinetically paced video games. While Wenk’s script adheres to the original’s template, he has tacked on some car chases, some spectacular stunts involving leaping from skyscrapers, lots of nasty-edged violence, and a veritable mountain of bodies piled up.
But the whole thing is vaguely disappointing! And unlike the original’s down beat ending, this remake leaves the way open for a sequel and a possible new action franchise for Statham.
For trivia buffs, it is interesting to note that David Winkler and Bill Chartoff, who produced this remake, are the sons of the original producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff.