The Mechanic Review
Jason Statham is a man not known for his acting chops. After all, his unmoving stoicism and action-hero physic means the man will never branch out beyond the role of martial arts hero. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you have to watch his films with a certain expectation, and ground breaking, intensely-acted cinema isn't one of them.
So it comes to no surprise that The Mechanic, a remake of a 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson, is typical Statham fare. Directed by Simon West, Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, an assassin who prides himself on perfect assassinations, so cleanly performed that most don't realize an assassination took place. Bishop is a lonely man, living on an isolated island in the middle of the Louisiana bayou, with only a stunning prostitute (Mini Anden) and his boss Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) providing a tangible link to humanity.
Unfortunately, he has another boss, the slimy and untrustworthy Dean (Tony Goldwyn), who with McKenna, leads an unnamed organization for assassinations. Bishop is the best-of-the-best, yet one kill hits a little close to home. Needless to say, McKenna isn't alive for long, and his dead-beat son Steve (Ben Foster) presses onto Bishop to apprentice him as an assassin. After 45 minutes of training, a montage, and the typical “master/pupil” dynamics, Steve is ready to assist Bishop. From there, they kill a rival assassin with a perchance for young men and chihuahuas, as well as an obese religious figure, until they finally get around to the climactic battle. Really, there are no surprises here. Mostly.
However, the relationship between Bishop and Steve provides the backbone of the film that separates The Mechanic from other buddy action films. For as methodical and clean Bishop is, Steve is brutal and bloody, a brash and undefined man that seems unfit for assassination work. However, for every mistake Steve makes, Bishop is there unquestioning, leading him along almost gently. It's an interesting dynamic, and is probably the best interaction in the film.
I especially like Foster for his performance as Steve. An actor I personally remember from the Disney series Flash Forward (while more dignified film buffs will remember him in 3:10 to Yuma and The Messenger), Foster's Steve is small and uncoordinated, a grossly imperfect man compared to Bishop's iron-clad facade. Not to hate on Statham, who actually conveys some emotion with his performance as Bishop, it is that Foster really tries to convey some actual pain and feeling from his role. Sure, some will say it's overacting for a stupid action flick, but it speaks that the guy has a future in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, while I found Steve to be an interesting character, it doesn't exactly make for a good film. At the end of the day, The Mechanic is just a progression of Statham's Transporter and Crank films. He's there to fight some awesome fights, look really good and sexy while doing it, and maybe have sex with a hot chick. Hell, even his house is as unnaturally classy as his home in The Transporter, and he even has the typical “killer-assassin-retains-his-humanity-with-a-perchance-for-classical-music-and-art.” Seriously, is there some requirement that Statham's roles have to have classy artistic leanings? It's odd. Anyway, when all is said and done, Statham is the 21st Century's perfect action hero, and he doesn't need to be any more than that.
That said, The Mechanic isn't the best action flick Statham has headlined. There really isn't any plot, and the whole emotional roller coaster Steve goes through generally begins and ends within fifteen minutes in the last act of the film. Sure, Statham does a great job jumping off buildings and bridges, shooting guys, and wearing suits, but it's not very deep. That might be more than enough for many people looking out for a gory and violent action movie, but anyone hoping that The Mechanic would rise above the rest is delusional. The Mechanic is Jason Statham going through the motions, and nothing more. Foster helps lift it up, but this film will never be remembered after the first viewing.