Although I hadn’t seen the original 1970s Charles Bronson flick, it wasn’t difficult to figure out rather quickly what the plot trajectory for The Mechanic was. This isn’t necessarily a death knell for an action movie — what is is the lack of any heart thumping action. And that people, is exactly the case here; not even the surefire admission of Jason Statham and his patented ass-kicking ways can do a thing about it. Well, to be truthful, it does do a little but not nearly enough to make this a movie to remember for the right reasons.
A mechanic, in case you’re wondering (and I’m sure you are) is a paid assassin. You can’t put “Assassin Wanted” in the help wanted ads of the Tribune as easily as you can put “Mechanic Needed”. In Chicago, a city of 2,851,268 residents (as of the 2009 census), that’s how codes are sent to master hitman Arthur Bishop (Statham). Why no one else in the 12th largest city on the planet calls the number plastered at the end of the ad looking for a job is question director Simon West doesn’t feels deserves an answer. I mean in this economy what are the chances someone is out of work? But I digress; there is a job to do. Statham begrudgingly does it. Statham’s longtime friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered and his son wants to learn the ropes to exact some revenge. Statham begrudgingly takes him under his wings.
Another job presents itself. Arthur with Steve (Ben Foster) in tow takes the job. They scale up skyscrapers in broad daylight dressed in black. Even ninjas had white outfits . . . I think. But hey, these guys are professionals so they obviously know something we don’t about staying unseen (stupid ninjas). For stealthy guys they sure make a lot of noise too. A whole 15 minute firefight takes place in hallways and rooftops. Lucky for them, the professional bad guys with automatic weapons are such lousy shots. Lucky too, that the police were too busy dunking their doughnuts in their coffees to respond. I can’t recall if this too was Chicago, but if it was then it should surely rename itself to Bizarro City since there is no unemployment and no cops! But I digress yet again . . .
There is a twist that presents itself in the The Mechanic right around here. I guess, however, you can’t really call it a twist if you see what comes beyond it clear as day though. So maybe calling it a dip in the road would be more appropriate. Whatever you choose to call it, it presents itself and Arthur has to make some tough choices.
And I know these decisions are tough because Jason Statham crinkles his nose and furrows his brow a lot. People do that when they are troubled (or when they follow Uncle Leo into the bathroom after he’s eaten three too many bean burritos). Ah, but Statham kicks some ass and that is what he is damn good at. And even though there aren’t many bona fide beat down sessions with him in them, those that he does get into are ultra violent. West decided that the more violent the encounters were would mask that there aren’t many encounters. He almost pulls it off too — I thought the 30-second point blank target practice session by Arthur and Steve on some guy’s face drove home that point.
But as I said at the beginning, The Mechanic, if remembered, would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. I can overlook the abject stupidity of it, but I can’t forgive the fact that in what is supposed to be an action flick there isn’t enough action to keep it afloat. And even more damning, is in what action there is, Statham isn’t used to his full potential. Yep, among other unforgivable things, The Mechanic will be remembered as the movie that put Statham on the back burner to let Ben Foster, of all people, be the brutalizer.