January 30, 2011
Instead of Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent we get Jason Statham and Ben Foster. Not a bad trade off. Both Bronson and Statham have crafted careers out of playing big screen bad asses, although in rather different fashion. In any case, it is interesting to see how they update the tale of the hitman.
While the Bronson original is not great cinema, it does prove to be much more interesting than it modern counterpart. The original film had a gritty realism to it, it had a personality that only Bronson could deliver. It was an action film that was not really an action film. The Mechanic was a B-grade thriller meant to deliver excitement, which it did. The remake feels more like a desire to make money and hopefully draw in a few extra bucks from fans of the original.
That is not to say the new take on The Mechanic is a bad movie, it just feels unnecessary. It does not bring anything new to the screen except a little more action. This new take, helmed by Simon West, is steeped in style, much like the original was, the only problem is that instead of a gritty realism, it was reinvisioned with a Hollywood sheen that passes for action movie style. It is a style that looks like countless other films.
The story centers on Arthur Bishop (Statham) is a hitman who works for some unseen association, taking big jobs and doing the job better than anyone else in the business. He takes the son, Steve (Foster), of his mentor (Donald Sutherland) under his wing and helps him gain some sort of life traction. He has had substance abuse issues and other problems that have kept him downtrodden.
The two work together to develop the necessary skills and go on jobs where those skills are put to the test. Before long, however, Bishop discovers they have been double crossed. The plot is not terribly deep or convoluted, but it is very easy to give away important details when discussing the story. You are much better served discovering on your own.
On a base level, I enjoyed The Mechanic. Jason Statham is always entertaining, he may get mostly one note roles, but he certainly knows what to do with them. Ben Foster does a good job as the sort of prodigal son. The action is shot competently and exciting enough. My problems with it don't lie so much with the acting or the action, so much as the story and the execution thereof.
One problem carried over from the original is that we are meant to side with a man who has made a career as a hitman. This is not a movie about a guy reforming his life. The real problem goes beyond that, there really is not story. There are a series of scenes and they all go together, more or less, but there is not that much connective tissue to bring it all together. It lacks a human element needed to engage. The original had Bronson's unique presence and a gritty, workmanlike look and feel that sort of made up for it. That was not the case here. I did not get any emotion from anyone involved, the story was too thin to care about, and I was left in the cold.
Overall, I would say it is wort checking out for action fans, but keep your expectations n check. It is an entertaining miss.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 1/30/2011 07:00:00 PM
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.