After starring in 2002’s “The Transporter,” Jason Statham has earned a “tough guy” reputation. But in “The Mechanic,” Statham proves he is more than a one-trick pony in his dramatic performance as Arthur Bishop, a hit man who lives to kill.
Set in the post-Katrina city of New Orleans, Tony Goldwyn plays Dean, a corporate executive whose clerical persona is a dark and convincing lie. He is really the leader of a global network of assassins, and Bishop happens to be his most trusted killer for hire. But their business relationship sours when Bishop’s mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), ends up on Dean’s hit list.
Lewis John Carlino, who penned the original film script for the 1972 “Mechanic,” revamps the movie for the current generation. Despite the success of the first film and the modern twists in the remake, Carlino and Richard Wenk’s screenplay will leave a bad taste in audiences’ mouths. The location of the action doesn’t provide the same epic feel as a city like Los Angeles. Even fights in notable New Orleans landmarks, rather than random buildings, would’ve stimulated more interest and been more telling to the audience. Carlino and Wenk do manage to avoid cheesy one-liners present in action films like “Crank 2: High
Voltage,” also starring Statham, and opt for timely dialogue instead.
The film’s three-act structure is problematic because of its episodic feel. Instead of each scene building onto the next, every section feels like a stand-alone film. Though similar locations and characters occasionally pass onto the next scene, the cohesiveness ends there. Thankfully, Eric Schmidt’s evocative cinematography minimizes the abrupt scene changes.
Viewers will first notice the cinematography’s deep, saturated colors and lighting and appreciate its focus on little details. The film’s opening sequence takes place in a Colombian drug lord’s mansion where a masterful assassination attempt happens by the swimming pool with cool, dark, shimmery water that contrasts with the humid backdrop. Technically, the visual style is very aggressive, but the camera isn’t shaky or nauseating like in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” another hit-man flick. “The Mechanic” is fast-moving yet easy on the eyes.
Bishop’s emotionally vague aversion to the people he kills is similar to that of another cinematic assassin, James Bond. But despite their cold-blooded hearts, the two are immeasurably different. In a lot of ways, Bishop is the anti-007. Statham plays Bishop with a gruffness that Bond would never adapt. His no-nonsense, blue-collar mentality makes him more relatable than the GQ Bond.
The film also features a likeable cast whose strong presence makes up for the uneven screenplay. The actors’ exchanges are realistic despite completely exaggerated action scenes. Ben Foster, who plays Harry’s son, Steve McKenna, is Statham’s sidekick. Their on-screen chemistry is scintillating, but their fairly brief screen time together culminates too quickly with a fiery, explosion-filled extravaganza.
Though the script is about as smooth as a rusty nail, “The Mechanic” hangs on with great performances and well-thought-out stunts. Statham and Foster gel, and they successfully play off each other’s strengths. In the end “The Mechanic” is a bumpy, yet gripping ride.
“The Mechanic” was written by Lewis John Carlino and Richard Wenk and directed by Simon West.
3 out of 4 stars