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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Mechanic

Victory loves preparation 

The Mechanic, based off of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name, is an interesting film. In Micheal Winner's original, the storyline is the same, the performances are weaker, and the direction is inept. With this slick remake, however, everything is polished and put neatly into its place. I was reminded of 2008's Taken more often than not, and any movie that can get me to remember that one is solid in my book. Taken, by all means, is a beautiful film. 

However, this is The Mechanic we're talking about. A Simon West film, of which Roger Ebert said "this film is so well made, that one forgets to ask why it even had to be made at all?" To him, I pose another question "why the hell not?" 

More after the cut -- 

Simon West is a hit/miss director, in the same way that Marc Foster is. One good film, one incredibly bad film, so on and so forth. In 1997, West gave us the remarkable - if kind of goofy - Con Air, and then followed that up with the insipid The General's Daughter. Then took another direction with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which wasn't anything special but was loads of fun, especially for hardcore fans of the video game. Then, in 2006, we were mistreated to the mind-numbingly awful When a Stranger Calls. Thankfully, The Mechanic continues the streak he's on by being a consistently involving and exciting film. 

I guess some people have trouble connecting to stories about men who murder for money, especially when we're supposed to connect with them on an emotional level. In film, most killers are presented as cold and ruthless, thus all emotional connection is severed. Not here, though - Jason Statham's Arthur Bishop is a cold and ruthless man, but is someone we can't help but feel for. He's a vicious person, on a number of levels that don't involve his work as a hitman. He's materialistic, he's a womanizer, and he wants to be the hero. In his line of work, getting out makes you the hero. 

Without giving too much away, there are two performances that I feel I should point out. Donald Sutherland, as Arthur's mentor and oldest (literally) friend, and his son Steve (Ben Foster, who is, flat out, brilliant). Two performances that normally would have no place in a film like this, full of humanity and nervousness and understanding. Foster's Steve is just as self-involved and degraded as Statham, but like him, he wants to be the hero. To him, however, being the hero means seeking vengeance on the people who murdered his father. Sutherland invokes the Hollywoodized suaveness of a man who has been in that business for years, and Foster takes it, rolls with it, and makes sure you know that he is his father's son. Excellent, and comparable work. 

There are a few moments that place the film in the "dumb action flick" category - in West's world, there are no police. No one notices buses exploding, or ten minute shoot-outs in unpopulated streets. Hitmen are hired on Craigslist. And no, the hooker doesn't just want your money. It's definitely a "guy's movie", but the artistic value of the film - mainly in the performances and editing - make this something for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully. 

Statham is a hitman who trains a mourning son, and together, they shake up the world in which they work. Vengeance is taught to not be a motive, but... sometimes exceptions must be made. Here, there is no exception - a solid above all reason action movie, with two startlingly excellent supporting performances, and the Jason Statham we've all come to know and love. 

Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half at all.