Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is the best hitman in the business. He’s not just a hitman, per se; rather he’s a Mechanic, the kind of guy who fixes problems so that it appears that it perhaps wasn’t a hit. More of a fixer than a killer so to speak, he fixes problems by leaving dead bodies in particular ways as to not be suspected to be ordered hits. With a flair for the spectacular, no one’s better than Bishop. But unfortunately The Mechanic may have moments of fascination and intrigue, it all too often falls into the trap of being a dumb action film as opposed to Jason Statham’s version of The American.
And initially, oddly enough, that’s what The Mechanic has the feel of. This is a quiet, contemplative piece about a hitman who’s an artist at death in the beginning. After Bishop’s methodical first kill of the film, a rather meticulous and detailed piece of work that relies on deft timing and impeccable planning, we get to see a different side of the man. This is a man who has been hardened by years of inflicting death and as such his lifestyle almost reflects it. He spends his time listening to classic records and restoring a classic car in between visits with a prostitute, his hobbies a sort of release from the violent nature of his profession. Even in that he’s meticulous; the way he makes sure to wipe off an album before he plays it, or the way he handles a car part, tells us a lot about Bishop without ever having to explicitly say it. He’s a craftsman in everything he does.
It’s a slight variation for Jason Statham on his usual role. There isn’t anything that markedly different from Arthur Bishop to any of the other characters he’s played; it’s a role he could do in his sleep. An interesting variant is that Simon West lets him show more about his character than tell it, with scenes of Bishop working on the car or letting the camera linger slightly on his slightly detailed way of putting a record on. It takes some strength as a director to show things like this instead of just having a minor character use it as throwaway dialogue.
The film, a remake of the Charles Bronson headlined film of the same name, follows nearly the same plot. Bishop ends up killing his handler (Donald Sutherland) at the behest of his employer and winds up having the dead man’s son (Ben Foster) join him as a protégé of sorts. He’s everything Bishop isn’t; sloppy and aggressive, he’s more of a thrill-seeker than a craftsman. Early on he winds up finishing a job for Bishop, instructed to do it quietly with some poison, and instead turns it into a bloody brawl that leaves him battered and bruised (but somehow still alive). The chemistry between the two isn’t quite a master/student relationship as traditionally shown in film; Bishop’s sense of timing and his protégé’s trigger happy notions end up fouling up a job that had been nearly perfect in execution.
And that sort of almost describes the film as well. West seems to be trying to make two films at once. There’s the quiet piece about a methodical hitman on the job, with no illusions that any of them will be his “final” job, which would normally find its way to an art house cinema. Then there’s the big dumb action film starring Jason Statham that needs to find itself in multiplexes across the country. West seems to be trying to weld these two together, his own version of The American but with big shootout scattered throughout, but is seemingly much more interested in the former than the latter. There’s a sense of purpose when West shows Bishop doing anything that isn’t a big violent action sequence. He has a flair for showing Bishop’s preparation and his methodical nature in everything, as if that’s the film he wanted to make, and absolute butchery when it comes to filming an action sequence. When the film is about the moment before the action starts it’s an intriguing moment that leaves you ready for what could happen. After it gets there it winds up becoming disjointed and tough to follow.
Charles Bronson’s version of The Mechanic has had its reputation go through a bit of revisionist history of the years, from something on his resume that continued to keep him a star at the time but growing to nearly mythical proportions for another generation. Jason Statham doesn’t make the film its own in the remake, making another in a series of seemingly repeatable roles in repeatable films.
Director: Simon West Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn Writer(s): Richard Wenk based off the original screenplay “The Mechanic” by Lewis John Carlino
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.