Screen Rant's Vic Holtreman reviews The Mechanic
Following on the heels of the most excellent updated version of True Grit we have a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson-starring film The Mechanic (click for info about the original). While True Grit was quite excellent mainly due to the performance of its young star, sadly, this new version of The Mechanic is nothing to write home about.
It opens promisingly enough with a silent introduction to the head of a South American drug cartel. Within minutes we get a sense of not only his power and brutality, but of his enormous wealth. Statham appear on the scene to assassinate the guy in a pretty slick way ("the best jobs are the ones where they never knew you were there"). In a tightly put together sequence we learn all we need to know about Statham's character (incongruently named Arthur): He's cool, focused, fearless - your basic bad-ass.
Ah, but eventually Arthur must utter dialog. I'm a fan of Statham, but sometimes I wish he'd try taking on an American accent for some roles - maybe he'd deliver lines more effectively or in a less monotone manner. Don't get me wrong - he pulls off guy-you-definitely-don't-want-to-mess-with very effectively, but for me his delivery is generally too monotone. He soon meets up with his mentor/contact Henry (played by the always engaging Donald Sutherland). They're obviously very close friends, and it seems that Arthur is the substitute for Henry's ne'er do well son Steve (Ben Foster).
Henry is implicated as a traitor to "the company" by its owner (played by Tony Goldwyn). If you don't know him by name, check out his picture and you'll know immediately that Henry has been framed. He is convincing, however, laying out what seems to be incontrovertible evidence, and asks Arthur to assassinate him. In the interest of knowing he can do it in a quick and (relatively) merciful manner, Arthur accepts.
Soon after Steve appears on the scene - he and Arthur know each other and Steve is resentful that he was replaced in his father's eyes by Arthur. Of course his father still loved him, although he was distant. Knowing this, Arthur takes Steve under his tutelage (reluctantly) and trains him to be a "mechanic" - an assassin for hire. Having an anger and mean streak a mile wide, Steve doesn't have a problem with this (in fact, he asks for it) and he seems to be a quick study.
There were things I did like about The Mechanic. Much of it has somewhat of a 70s movie vibe. It's shot mostly in a straightforward manner (up until a major action sequence towards the end of the film) without too much use of shaky-cam, jarring quick cut edits or any of that "cool" camera work. There is lots of action/violence (including an awesome hand to hand combat scene between Foster and a monstrously huge Jeff Chase) and from time to time there are some low-key but funny zingers of dialog in the film.
If it's not the sort of thing that makes you squirm uncomfortably in your theater seat, there's a pretty explicit sex scene early on that seemed gratuitous and just inserted (pardon the pun) because they could with the R-rating and they figured it might draw an audience. Me, I'm not a fan - implied is good enough for me.
On the other side we have the fact that it just felt kind of generic - nothing really memorable. Having Sutherland in there briefly actually made me more aware of how little I really cared about the other characters - because he's always able to make such a big impact even if he's not on screen very long. The film just goes through its thing, and I watched it mostly disinterested, but went along for the ride.
If you're a Statham or Foster fan, and you're looking for a no holds barred, R-rated action movie during this sleepy movie season, then maybe The Mechanic will tide you over for a bit. Otherwise, you might want to hold out for Drive Angry 3D in February starring Nic Cage to satisfy your R-rated action craving.
Here's a trailer for The Mechanic: