Theatrical Review: THE MECHANIC
Movie remakes for years have seemed to follow the same trend of low quality film making. By rehashing a familiar named franchise or single film, it's almost been as if simply putting together a film is enough to get people in seats and be a vehicle for whatever actor is the lead to launch a career on. The most solid remakes of the last few years have either brought something new to the table, or have been able to improve upon their predecessor. Thankfully, we don't have this problem with this film. 2010's THE MECHANIC is a more than solid enough remake that manages to remain pretty faithful to the original Charles Bronson classic while allowing Jason Statham to bring his own flair to the film in ways that only he can.
Jason Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a hitman who works for a corporation that covertly sends out assignments to "mechanics" through classified internet ads as a way to mask their operation. The film opens in a hangar where a very menacing man emerges. He arrives home from on a trip on a private jet and from the moment he lands is surrounded by no less than a dozen security guards at all times. Once home, he decides to go for a swim in his inexplicably dark tiled, yet very cool looking indoor pool. He sees a watch laying at the bottom of the pool and when he goes to retrieve it, he is then taken down by Arthur Bishop who had been waiting undetected at the bottom.
A very complicated and intricate escape later, we sit down at breakfast with Bishop and his longtime mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). When Bishop gets home he receives his next assignment, and it is none other than his mentor Harry McKenna that he must kill next. When meeting with the man in charge of handing out assingments, Dean, Arthur learns about how Harry has sold out the company, and he must be made to pay. Without hesitation this mission is carried out. This is where Arthur encounters Harry's son Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), a troublemaking young man who doesn't seem to care about his fathers death, or does he?
Beyond awesome fighting, great shooting scenes and creative weapons used to make for some memorable kills, this movie has all of the ingredients that have made fans of Jason Statham his whole career. It's good to see consistency in the roles he's choosing. His performance as Arthur Bishop is very different from that of Charles Bronson when he portrayed this role in 1972. While they both carry a very rigid posture and business-first type nature, Jason Statham is just a little more menacing looking on the surface than Bronson was. Statham's ability to perform hand to hand combat the way he can was a definite improvement on the character of Arthur Bishop and a good way for the viewer to remain excited about what's happening on screen. Guns, clever traps, and poison are all well and good, but sometimes a movie goer needs to see some good old fist fighting.
Ben Foster's portrayal of Steve McKenna was a huge improvement over the performance of Jan-Michael Vincents in the original MECHANIC. Ben Foster's character is a truly troubled individual. You don't have to know his past to know that he's been in a few scraps in his life. Jan-Michael Vincent's character wasn't nearly as menacing, and didn't seem to embrace (on a kind of sick level) killing the way Ben Foster did. This will be the biggest strength of the film for those who have seen the original. For those who haven't, they will remain fans of Jason Statham films.
A huge amount of credit has to go out to writer Richard Wenk (16 BLOCKS) and director Simon West (CON AIR, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS) for tackling a remake of a film that isn't as well known as some of other remakes that have been churned out over the last few years. To be able to stay very close to the source material while allowing for nuance, and still make a very good action film that is genuinely enjoyable is a marvelous feat today. Hollywood seems to be getting the message that subpar remakes shouldn't be tolerated. Better can be done, same yet slightly different can be good, and knowing what made the source material great should be expected from now on. Let's hope THE MECHANIC was the kickoff to a great year of remakes, and that we shouldn't be expected to endure the same mediocre films that are easily forgettable of the past few years. THE MECHANIC is absolutely worth your time in theaters, especially for Jason Statham and Ben Foster fans.