Sony // 2011 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 3rd, 2011
Someone has to fix the problems.
Michael Winner's 1972 hitman thriller The Mechanic gets a slick, big-budget Hollywood makeover courtesy of Con Air director Simon West. Luckily, Jason Statham is on hand to make the whole endeavor worth watching.
Jason Statham (Crank) plays Arthur Bishop, a cold-blooded and utterly professional hitman who lives by his own code and will do any job if the price is right. When he's double-crossed and tricked into killing his mentor (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job), Bishop decides to track down and take revenge on the men responsible for the deception -- and even gets a little help from his new trainee, Sutherland's son Steve (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma).
Jason Statham is a movie star. He's not a great actor, and he has yet to make a great movie (depending on your definition of "great"...I'M LOOKING AT YOU, CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE), but he's someone that gets audiences to come out no matter what the movie he's starring in may be. I know because I'm one of those people; tell me about a new Brad Pitt movie, and I'll wait to see the trailers. Give me a Denzel Washington movie and I'll decide to see it depending on whether or not it was directed by Tony Scott. But if Jason Statham's got a movie out, chances are I'll check it out. Such is his bald, British charm.
Your particular feelings about his Transportership will likely dictate your reaction to Simon West's 2011 remake of The Mechanic, which is slick and violent and entertaining while contributing absolutely nothing new to the ongoing cinematic conversation. There are fans who consider the Charles Bronson film a kind of classic and that will reject the very notion of remaking it as a crime against humanity. Those without any particular affection for the first movie, though, should find The Mechanic a perfectly serviceable action thriller with a few terrific set pieces, some well-staged action and lots of Jason Statham coolness (in fact, the movie lays on the "coolness" way too thick -- he's a hitman who retires to his meticulously decorated safe house and listens to classical music on VINYL). Even Ben Foster manages to rein it in enough so that his usual overacting isn't totally distracting, and is able to actually squeeze a few laughs out of what is otherwise a too-grim and self-serious screenplay by Richard Wenk.
If you've seen the 1972 Mechanic, there's not much that will surprise you here. It's glossier and faster and more violent, but most of the major story beats and character arcs remain in place. The most significant changes are made to the Jason Statham character (taking over for Charles Bronson) in the interest of making him more likable -- including an insultingly stupid change to the original film's ending that demonstrates just how much studio movies have changed in the last 30 years.
The original film, though sleepy, was unpretentious and seemed to exist in the real world -- there was something working class about Michael Winner's version of The Mechanic. All of that has disappeared from the remake. This is flashy, competent, all-surface-no-substance filmmaking (one can expect little else from Simon West, who trained in the Jerry Bruckheimer school), more concerned with looking cool and providing cheap, violent thrills than with exploring the characters or their relationships. If these sound like criticisms, they shouldn't. There is room in the world for the effective action film that neither aspires to nor reaches any level of greatness. The Mechanic is proof of that -- it is exactly the movie it wants to be, and action film junkies willing to take it at face value (it has no other) will likely find exactly what they were looking for. Everyone else may wish to stay away.
The Mechanic arrives on Blu-ray with a very attractive 1080p transfer courtesy of Sony. The 2.40:1 widescreen image looks great: tons of detail and incredibly warm colors (the photography of the film leans a little heavily on making the actors look orange) along with strong blacks and a fine layer of grain make for an HD transfer that no one should complain about. Just as satisfying is the 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, which is powerful and dynamic -- as can be expected from a new release action movie. Dialogue is clear, the score carries plenty of kick and the gunfire and explosions work exactly as intended. This is a very solid effort from Sony, and the kind of presentation (and movie, really) that makes you appreciate your HD setup. The supplemental section is extremely limited, though, consisting of only a few deleted and extended scenes (including an alternate opening), a making-of featurette and some trailers for other Sony titles. A pretty weak offering to be sure, though I'm not sure how much there is to be said about The Mechanic. It's the kind of movie that speaks for itself.
There are a whole lot of action movies that are better and more memorable than The Mechanic. Jason Statham is even in a couple of them. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that it's totally entertaining if you're in the right mood and satisfying if you've got an itch for an action movie. Plus, Statham gets to beat up and shoot a bunch of people. That alone is worth the price of admission.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Official Site