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The Mechanic (Frank's take)

01/03/2011. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy The Mechanic in the USA - or Buy The Mechanic in the UK

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It is not much of a stretch for badass balding action star Jason Statham to do what he routinely does in serviceable crime thrillers, which is…of course…means creating manufactured hedonistic havoc as everything around him explodes and implodes in euphoric exaggeration.

There’s nothing distinctively challenging that Statham has not ventured before although The Mechanic is another passing excuse to have the Roguish One wheel-and-deal in the overindulgent serving of an annoyingly frivolous and fraught actioner.d136

Naturally, ardent fans of the Crank and Transformer film series will probably beg to disagree as Statham has proven his wayward wings by ushering in boisterous “blow ‘em up” action-packed ditties that reign supreme. Sure, Statham’s Crank alter ego Chev Chelios was a polarising pistol to say the least. The question remains, however, the following: can the bombastic swagger and delirious destruction define Statham’s manic momentum in the updated version of The Mechanic where his off-kilter Chev Chelios-inspired one-man wrecking crew characterisation can ignite yet another arbitrary, empty-headed adrenaline-rushing adventure?

Well, Statham gets to delve into the flimsy and familiarised surroundings of indifference and indignation as he performs his usual destructive demeanour—scaling and falling off of buildings, detonating colourful bombs that go BOOM on cue, bashing in random skulls and strutting his physical stuff for the ladies. Yeah, somehow it is safe to say that the stoic Statham does not miss a predictable beat in a one-syllable yarn drenched in strained outrageousness.

Formulaic and unimaginative in its rousing execution, The Mechanic is a remake of the 1972 action thriller starring Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent. Although the original instalment proudly featured ruffled, moody and edgy Bronson at the wheels of early 70’s chaos and disillusionment, Statham comes off as an ageing college frat boy aimlessly perpetrating a prank for the sake of gaudy glorification.

Director Simon West (“Con Air”) flaps the film’s kinetic wings but the movie is a clunky stone that refuses to move beyond its staged expression of rudimentary ribaldry. The flashy direction is evident but the meatiness to the bone of the movie’s urgency lacks as much as Statham’s pronounced receding hair line.

The premise follows anti-heroic Arthur Bishop, a proficient hitman who’s called into dubious service to perform a mission of conflict—execute his mentor and close friend Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), a wheelchair-bound individual. The request to eradicate Harry is from Bishop’s unctuous boss Sanderson (Tony Goldwyn, the memorable sleazebag sidekick from “Ghost”). It seems that the periled Harry has been doing some underhanded and double-crossing dealing with Bishop’s superior. So it’s time to pay the costly price as Bishop is asked to kill his only true friend in the name of dastardly duty.

Understandably conflicted, Bishop goes about his assignment in targeting a doomed Harry. However, Bishop decides to ease his guilt by befriending and nurturing the potential hitman skills of Harry’s estranged son Steve McKenna (Ben Foster). Steve doesn’t realise that teacher Bishop is the one responsible for putting the deadly icing on his father’s cake. As Steve tags along on a few hits with the focused Bishop, the dilemma is quite clear cut: how can Bishop avoid protégé Steve’s curiosity about his father Harry’s demise? Can Bishop shield his persistent student from the awful truth?

Consequently, The Mechanic will probably appease Statham-enthusiasts as they blindly embrace this run-of-the-mill frenetic fable. In theory, this vexing vehicle is another stylised guilty pleasure for the jolting Jason and his standby fluctuating dosage of fury. Because the material is so perfunctory in its hyperactive makeup (standardized gunfights, bursting explosions, proposed treachery, etc.) this all the more focuses an unflattering spotlight on Statham’s participation in the movie which never strays from the similar wrecking ball rhythms that is the British brute’s one-note punching bag persona.

Other than finding fault in Statham’s sketchy and redundant characterization some may have observed the potential for the Arthur Bishop-Steve McKenna pairing to become more involving and deep. The movie rejects this notion and the tension could have been more prevalent had the dynamics of the two partners-in-crime—veteran Bishop and talented novice Steve—bothered to dig further on an emotionally impacting level.

Sutherland is briefly acknowledged as the victim to Bishop’s hitman-causing hubris as he’s bound by both the wheelchair and thankless brief turn as a casualty-in-the-making. Goldwyn is thoroughly engaging as the slime ball operative responsible for pushing Bishop’s instinctual killing buttons. As the budding hitman with lingering daddy issues, Foster is fine but could have been fleshed out more sufficiently as a detached lost soul.

Overall, the action pieces of assassination are unevenly showcased. The wetsuit/swimming pool sequence in the film’s opening is promising and inventive but the other instances regarding dire assignments are flat and never equally compliments one another. Bottom line: if one is starved for Statham-style frothiness that empowers this derivative and clichéd caper then The Mechanic is obviously your cup of taming time-bomb tea. For others, this toothless thrill ride will remain Mechanic-ally deficient.

The Mechanic (2011) CBS Films
1 hr. 32 mins.
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden
Directed by: Simon West
MPAA Rating: R

Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

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