THE MECHANIC Movie Review
What do you expect from an action movie?
Guns? Check. Cars? Check (sort of). Hottie? Um, check (thank you, supermodel Mini Anden). Death? Check check check check check check check check check check check check check check… check please?
Why let a nameless bad guy just get shot without a close-up-from-behind view of his melon exploding in front of the camera? Why toss another one off a roof, depriving us of following him all the way down until his scream ends in a splat and he looks like a 3-piece suit laid down in the middle of a tomato-sauce explosion?
But do you expect to be moved? Just a little? Do you expect a dramatic performance from a supporting actor who also rolls through the fighting sequences as deftly as his seasoned action-superhero mentor? In short, after the blood and guts fade out, do you expect a little meat on the bone? I didn’t. Not this time.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by THE MECHANIC, the new Jason Statham/Ben Foster remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name.
Directed by Simon West (“Con Air,” and the even worse “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” one of the handful of movies this reviewer walked out of in the last ten years), the story would be far from original even if it weren’t an actual remake: An impossibly tough, highly-trained, perfectly armed quick-thinking hitman (Arthur, played by Statham); a job to do; a betrayal; a naïve newcomer (Steve, played by Foster) who must be mentored in the methods of mass murder; a five-minute “train the new guy” montage; a 15-minute “work together and kill all the bad guys” action sequence. We’ve seen this before, yes? Many, many times, yes?
Foster (“Six Feet Under,” “3:10 to Yuma”) is the real story here. While Statham seems to be making a very good living playing basically the same guy in every movie (and doing it well, especially if you ask the ladies—yes, he gets naked again), Foster is making a name for himself as a serious actor bound for an Oscar one day. So far, violent weirdos have kind of been his specialty, and this role is no different in that regard. He’s too good to be typecast, though, and his performance in 2009’s The Messenger drew accolades. He’s one of the reasons The Mechanic had a chance to work as a slightly serious action movie. You really believe his inner conflict, starting with early scenes dealing with a character’s death, and later dealing with the prospect of having to commit a murder in a scene where he seems to raise Statham’s level of acting as well.
Arthur & Steve’s complicated relationship is the movie’s best single feature. It comes rather late, considering how vital it is to the story, and it ends in a way not befitting how much we have come to appreciate it.
Alas, the ending feels… fumbled somehow. Much emptier of meaning than it should have– almost as if West did not expect as much of his actors and his story as he got out of them. Given his previous accomplishments, this would be understandable. In the movie, Donald Sutherland’s character has a cool pistol engraved on one side with the Latin phrase, “Amat victoria curam,” and on the other side the English translation: “Victory loves preparation.” Perhaps next time out, West will learn to hope for more, and prepare us for something good.
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