Friday, December 30, 2011

The Mechanic - 2011

"The Mechanic" - 2011
Dir. by Simon West - 1 hr. 33 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Sometimes you need a reminder to trust your instincts.  When I first saw the trailer for "The Mechanic," I figured it was just another paint-by-numbers Jason Statham movie.  I'm sure that he's even gone so far as to refer to himself as a "mechanic" in one of his other movies (possibly one of the "Transporter" ones?), so this movie looked to lack even the most basic level of creativity.  But then at some point, I heard that this was actually a remake of an old Charles Bronson movie, and I became mildly curious.  I should have trusted my instincts.

In this context, a mechanic is an alias for a hit-man, albeit a creatively inclined, problem-solving version of one.  And just like in every other one of Jason Statham's movies, he's a highly-organized obsessive planner who is smarter than you and probably has better abs than you do, as well.  And he's super, super serious, all the time.  The plot is simple: Arthur Bishop (Statham) does a job, establishes that his only friend is Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), and then ends up having to take a job taking out McKenna.  McKenna's son, Steve (Ben Foster), comes along and ends up forcing his way into an apprenticeship under Bishop.  It turns out the job on Harry was a double-cross, which leads to Arthur and Steve taking on the firm that had previously employed Arthur.  Oh yeah, and stuff blows up a few times.

One of the chief problems here is that the story is pretty much a Scooby-Doo; there are so few moving parts  in this story that there's almost no possibility for misdirection, or even surprises of any kind.  Even the end isn't ever in question, seeing Statham's propensity for sequels.  There's no attempt at character development, either.  I don't know conclusively if Jason Statham is incapable of doing anything other than the one character he plays over and over, but there's no evidence to the contrary in "The Mechanic."  Those flaws could be overcome, however, if the action sequences were good enough.  I'm not so naive to think that people who want to see a movie like this are going because they want to see character arcs and high drama.

I will admit to anyone who cares to ask that I absolutely hate the current shaky-cam standard for fight scenes in action movies.  It distracts from the action (or the fact that the actors aren't actually very capable at stage fighting) and is disorienting.  But seeing as how I wasn't initially expecting anything that wasn't completely stock from this movie, I suppose it would be expecting way too much for this aspect of the film to be different.  For this reason, I didn't really care for any of the hand-to-hand combat scenes here.  And other than that, there's a couple of explosion-ridden scenes towards the end of the film involving large vehicles, but neither were spectacular enough to make up for much of anything.

However, there were moments of unintentional hilarity present.  My favorite was when Arthur and Steve had succeeded in pinning down Arthur's boss, Dean (Tony Goldwyn).  Arthur and Steve stand over Dean, who is trapped and bleeding in an upside-down car, and they unload their weapons into Dean.  That is, their high-capacity automatic weapons, wielded side-by-side, legs spread wide.  It's for all intents and purposes completely masturbatory, an orgasmic moment shared between master and student.  Which is cool, I guess. The other bit of unintentional hilarity is the portrayal of Arthur as being nearly invisible.  He escapes from everything without ever being noticed, even in large crowds.  He usually does this by furrowing his brow, staring a hole through someone, and walking directly at them.  If you saw someone doing that, you'd probably yell at the guy being chased that some crazy asshole was chasing him.  It's not just that Statham is super-serious about everything, it's that he seems to be nearly homicidally so.  Even basic actions like putting a record onto a turntable are solemn and nearly OCD-worthy.  For a character that's supposed to plan things out so well, you'd think that he might have figured out at some point that looking like you want to kill someone when you're trying to escape the scene of a murder is the sort of thing that other people might notice.  Or not.  Whatever works for a mechanic, I guess.

To sum up, "The Mechanic" is the sort of movie where the only women present in it are either hookers (presumably in the story to prove that Arthur is totally hetero, in contrast to the glances that he and Steve share) or the family of someone, threatened with violence in order to coerce that someone to give up information.  The plot is weak, the action is either weak and covered up by editing or really cool and handicapped by awful editing, and the acting possibly could have been culled from the cutting room floor of Statham's other films.  The whole thing bears the mark of the post-video game era: leveling up in lieu of actually telling a story.  If that sounds like your cup of tea, have at it.  Having been through this experience, I'm a little curious about the original movie.  It's not like it could be worse.

1 / 5 - TV

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