Friday, January 28, 2011
Movie review: The Mechanic
The Mechanic couldn't care less about why its (anti)hero does the things he does, so why should we care about him?
You know what type of movie The Mechanic wants to be the minute you lay eyes on its poster. As you can see, it's a graphic of a gun ... made up of around 30 other guns and assorted weapons. Yep, The Mechanic (a remake of the 1972 film starring Charles Bronson) is a no-holds barred, unapologetically violent film that doles out its punishment with impunity.
In case you were confused, the Mechanic referred to in the title is not actually an auto repairman (although he does spend time refurbishing one particular car) but a hit man for hire by the name of Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham). Bishop takes his orders from longtime handler Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), who in turn is in a nebulous leadership position in an unnamed organization alongside Dean (Tony Goldwyn). The movie's various twists and turns lead Bishop to take on the role of mentor for Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), Harry's son.
As the story begins, it takes on the feeling of other hit man movies in which the protagonist is endlessly inventive in how he dispatches his victims. And that kind of thing is interesting ... for a while. But it soon becomes clear that what we're witnessing is bad guys killing a bunch of bad guys, with no one to really root for. Now, Statham has played similar characters before – heck, with The Transporter trilogy and two Crank films on his resume, he's practically built a career on them. But something here feels different – a weak stab is made at the tried-and-true “double-crossed hit man out for revenge” angle, but the double cross hardly seems to bother Bishop, so it never really registers.
Instead, director Simon West makes the movie more about the killing than anything else – the only attempts at humanizing Bishop are by having him give the prostitute he frequents a dog and occasionally bantering with a guy who lets him borrow his boat. So no matter how clever each subsequent murder is, it's hard to shake the idea that the film doesn't contain a single character with any redeeming value, no matter how small. There's little, if any, fun to be had in watching something like that – at best, it's a waste of time, and at worst, it glorifies consequence-free mayhem to an already desensitized movie-going public. Please excuse me if I prefer my hit men to have a little moral ambiguity.
Statham does what he does best – deliver violence in a detached manner. If anything he does is the slightest bit upsetting to him, he never lets it show, which I guess makes him perfect for this role. The story arc for Foster gives him a bit more room to stretch than Statham, but he quickly becomes little more than a Statham doppleganger. At least Goldwyn, who's been great at playing the evil guy ever since 1990's Ghost, is able to put some nuance in his performance.
Hit man movies like Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, the Bourne trilogy, and The Professional give their audiences permission to get vicarious thrills from violent acts because they establish their characters as people who have been wronged in some way or have an obstacle to overcome. The Mechanic couldn't care less about why its (anti)hero does the things he does, so why should we care about him?
To find movie times for The Mechanic, click here.