Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Mechanic

To the Garage!

Jason Statham has taken on a variety of action roles in his career, equally adept at playing good character roles, evil ones, or anti-heroes. With a vast on screen profession ranging from being The Transporter to one of The Expendables, involved in a Death Race, or working on The Bank Job, and even The Italian Job too, he now becomes The Mechanic. No, not one who works in a garage, but an underground slang for a professional hitman, and like many of his characters, he's the best of the best at what he does.

His modus operandi is to be as meticulous as possible, preferring to stage his kills as accidents that his victims would have seemed to experience, working for an unnamed company who pays good, and has a clientele engaging it to bump off anyone from traffickers to bogus religious preachers. A remake of the 1972 of the same name starring Charles Bronson, this updated one directed by Simon West and written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino (who also scripted the original) relies heavily on conveniences for the primary character to work.

Don't mind me saying, but what I thought was obviously missing here is the element of suspense. Even if you've not been exposed to the original, you are able to keep pace, and go steps ahead even, with how the story progresses, with Statham's Arthur Bishop instructed by his corporation to bump off long time handler Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), which of course presents itself as some moral and emotional dilemma, coupled with tremendous guilt that Bishop has to bear. A chance for redemption comes in the form of Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster), who gets taken in by Bishop and trained in the ways of his world, where every man has a price on his head, and only with meticulous planning in crafting a hit comes the opportunity to benefit.

To an audience, you'll be waiting for when Steve would find out who had actually bumped off his dad, and leave him in the state that he is. Ben Foster excels here in the drama as a man reckless to get into fights, and approaching danger like a mouse to open cheese, diving headlong and not heeding instructions, just so to get a high from beating up and getting beaten up. Becoming almost like a liability, the development here is that he becomes almost like the professional he's trained to be, and is the consummate Robin type of sidekick to Bishop's Batman, responsible for screw ups that allow the action sequences to be spiced up.

Action wise, this film is a mixed bag. Jason Statham's Bishop prefers being low key, so you don't get to see much of Statham getting all physical, and even when he does, it's a pity that Simon West has an issue with framing and filming it properly. Sure he's fast, but filming it into a blur doesn't help. Things improve with the bigger action sequences and thankfully the final big bang piece when they go up against Dean (Tony Goldwyn) and his posse, though short as they were, and so conveniently planned out that our anti-heroes don't even break into a sweat, only of course to highlight the key message in the film that victory favours the prepared.

While emoting just isn't Statham's forte, he still struts around in coolness, and the only interesting thing about Bishop is his dilemma in wanting to redeem the wrong he had done against an old friend, and the playing of fire with accepting and training Steve McKenna as his own. Like how master-protege relationships turn when it sours, this one wasn't really that much of an impact, and provided what I thought was the mother of all laughs in the film. There are always how far fetched a scenario can be, and this one bordered on the unintentionally comical, just you know, to want to wrap things up in a hurry. This mechanic at best delivers only a mediocre service.

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