Friday, January 28, 2011

The Mechanic - Theatrical Review

Release Date: January 28, 2011

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:01 am January 28, 2011
Projector Type: Digital

Loves: Jason Statham
Likes: Ben Foster
Neutral: Simon West
Hates: Pointless remakes

From Director Simon West, the man that gave us such cinematic classics as Con Air and Lara Croft Tomb Raider comes another film that may just be his best yet. That may not seem like much praise given his past atrocities (OK, Tomb Raider wasn't THAT bad I guess) but at least it seems he has learned how to direct action a lot better this time around. The Mechanic is a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name and as it stands, the same plot as well. I have only caught glimpses of the original film but it was enough to inform me of just about everything that was gonna happen, although the film itself telegraphs that point home all on its own just fine. While it isn't a bad or good film, it straddles the line of mediocrity fairly well and ultimately became pointless after a while which begs the question of why remake something if you aren't going to improve on it?

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a mechanic, and while yes he does work on a car from time to time his main mode of operation is that of a professional hit man. We immediately see that he is surgical and without fault when executing his contracts after a rather quick and stealthy take down of a man that is so well guarded that he has armed goons looking over him while he takes a little afternoon swim that doesn't end to well for him. When Arthur returns home we are introduced to his way of life which is for lack of a better term, structured. He comes back to his home down on the bayou in New Orleans, puts on some classical music from his pristine record player, destroys all evidence of the job he just finished and caps it all off with a stroll into town to hook up with Sarah (Mini Anden), his favorite prostitute.

Arthur prepares for his next contract.

He soon meets up with his employer, and only real friend it seems, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) where we get some really obvious exposition out of the way about how talented Arthur is at his job (Didn't we just SEE how talented he is?) and how Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster) is a lost cause at ever living a fruitful life due to his violent streaks. Arthur gets paid, goes home and everything seems just peachy until he sees what his next job entails...killing Harry. After meeting with the man that put the contract out on Harry, Dean (Tony Goldwyn), he is convinced that Harry has done something bad and is then sent on his way to kill his one and only true friend. Arthur is conflicted for all of a couple minutes until he decides to fulfill the contract and proceeds to kill Harry. At the funeral he meets Steve for the first time whom besides having some serious emotional issues, knows what Arthur is and wants him to train him to become a mechanic, all the while not knowing that he is being mentored by the very man that killed his father.

Like I said I have very little memories from the original film so I went into this with a pretty clean slate as far as expectations go. I new Statham would provide some good martial arts action and from the trailers it seemed to be a fairly competent looking action film. However, I can now say that what I had expected was a bit off the mark and that the film ended up being ever so slightly confused on what it was trying to be. On the one hand you have the plot of Arthur being manipulated by his employers and the build up to your typical revenge climax where he goes off and kills everyone responsible. Then you throw Steve into the mix whom seems adrift in life and wants to learn to be a professional killer. We get the usual montage of Arthur showing Steve the ropes and pulling a Karate Kid on him by making him do mundane tasks while he is secretly training him.

Arthur and Steve form a rather shakey partnership.

I suppose the confusing part (and just to be clear here, I was not confused, I just felt the film was a little bit) was I didn't know what exactly the film was trying to be. Was it gonna be a revenge movie with Arthur taking everyone out? Was it gonna be a buddy movie with Arthur and Steve working together on jobs? Was Steve gonna find out Arthur was responsible for his fathers death and turn on him? I am not really complaining about having these questions come up, quite the contrary actually because I like it when a film tricks me into thinking it is heading one way only to pull a fast one on me. But I guess I would have liked to know who in the hell I was rooting for in all this. Arthur isn't really a sympathetic fellow, I mean he killed his best friend because it was his job. Steve is kind of a psychopath and even though we usually might want to see a character like his get revenge for his fathers death, I am not sure if I liked him more than Arthur enough to care if he won out.

While having a protagonist that isn't a very nice guy isn't a bad thing, I just thought we should have had some sort of identifier for who in the hell was in the right here. Maybe they both were, maybe they both weren't, maybe I am just thinking way more into this than I should. This is not the type of film you want to waste precious brain cells on trying to figure out. It is a very simple and somewhat shallow film like that, you really feel no connection to anyone and the only thing keeping us going is the hope of a really cool fight or assassination attempt being right around the corner. And yes, there are copious amounts of violence (and some sex) that help it earn that R rating with no regrets.

Steve isn't quite as cool and level headed as Arthur.

While we all know to expect some form of Kung-fu hi jinks from Jason Statham anymore, and he does not disappoint, there was one scene that kind came out of nowhere that shook and woke my ass up right when it needed to that didn't involve him at all. Steve is put on his own contract about halfway through the film where he has to take out this huge lumbering guy that just completely dwarfs Ben Foster. Things don't really go according to plan and he ends up in a fist fight with this monster. Up to this point the film had been pretty light on the violence, a few gun shots here and a couple of quick hits there, but man oh man did this liven things up. Seeing Ben Foster beat the shit out of, and in turn have the shit beat out of him, by this massive guy was a sight to behold. Foster is tossed around the house like a rag doll as he constantly looks for anything around him to stab or beat this guy with just to slow him down. Without a doubt this was my favorite scene in the film and it helped set the tone for what was to come.

And what was to come was pretty awesome despite me not really giving two shits about who lived and who died. Both Arthur and Steve do go on a couple of contracts together with one having some spectacularly bloody consequences, but for the most part their relationship is never really developed. When Arthur sends Steve out on his first job and it ends poorly he scolds Steve by saying "I said do it clean", and that's it, the next time they see each other everything is fine and they are back to work like it never happened. That is kind of how the whole film felt though, like things happened and there was never any follow through. For example, it is pretty dam obvious from the get go that Arthur was being lied to when he was sent to kill his friend, you could even see it in his eyes when he got the job, but he never once thought to look into it after the fact? He just goes about his business per usual until an extremely coincidental (and pointless) encounter with a person that was presumed dead is found alive and well. After that he then all of a sudden starts to put the pieces together which just all felt overly forced.

When things go boom or bang it is usually done very well.

There are loose story threads that never amount to anything either. Arthur's friend at the dock whom we see a few times giving Arthur advice disappears (kidnapped? killed?) once he starts being hunted by other mechanics. We get a couple quick shots of the guy's empty chair but that's it, Arthur must presume he is dead and that's that I guess. Oh, and the prostitute is clearly only there to give us that really quick sex scene at the beginning. I was thinking she would play a bigger part (especially after popping up throughout the film numerous times) but her relationship with Arthur goes nowhere. Perhaps it was just a lame attempt to give Arthur some kind of personal life outside his world but it never clicked with me the way it should have. I also thought it was funny how all his jobs start to get botched because of Steve messing up every time and he never once thinks about calling the whole partnership thing off, very strange.

I don't mean to sound overly negative on the film, it really is just a harmless little action flick. It's main offense is most definitely being very middle of the road with nothing particularly good or bad about it. The action scenes are we staged and executed well while being violent as all hell (love that car ambush scene near the end) and the acting was generally good across the board with nobody standing out in a good or bad way. But with so many other better action films out there (some of them starring Jason Statham as well) I just can't bring myself to recommend this to anyone, at least not in the theater. This film is the very essence of a Hollywood January movie dump. So without further ado I gotta say...



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