A remake of the 1972 movie of the same name, The Mechanic is the tale of Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), an elite hitman, who picks up an apprentice, Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), out of guilt for assassinating the unstable young man’s father.
As usual, Statham plays Statham. The actor has now repeated the same role so many times that what was once a unique spin on the clichéd Cockney tough guy is now about as compelling as the trailer for Mars Needs Moms.
Yet the man deserves some credit. Statham performed all of his own stunts in the film and the risks pay off.
With Statham’s determined face clearly visible throughout the action, what would otherwise be relatively unremarkable for today’s cinema becomes more engaging and personal. It’s a shame the energy couldn’t be converted into a more complex performance from the star.
The Mechanic’s decision to glorify silent, subtle assassination along the lines of what a real hitman might do, as opposed to the outright bombastic action of most similarly marketed action films proves somewhat successful.
It comes as little surprise that the film has been more than 15 years in the making, with hundreds of pitched scripts. Unfortunately, 15 years later, the remake still does not quite hit the mark.
According to director Simon West and screenwriter Richard Wenk, the main difference between the original version and the remake lies in the development of Foster’s character.
Instead of merely being Bishop’s apprentice, McKenna becomes a catalyst for the story’s developments and his relationship with the teacher serves as the film’s primary emotional draw.
The son of a known assassin exposed all his life to the culture of hitmen, McKenna becomes consumed and deranged by his desire to enter their world, a thirst complicated by his desire to avenge his father’s death.
As McKenna, Foster excels, frequently overshadowing Statham. Foster is showing his versatility as a young Hollywood actor, having successfully portrayed disturbed characters in movies such as 3:10 to Yuma and Alpha Dog, along with a comedic, yet still deranged, appearance on NBC’s My Name is Earl.
The producers and casting directors of The Mechanic had their eyes on the young actor as soon as the opportunity arose. Foster claims to have taken on the film as a light side project yet, ironically, it is his talent alone that makes The Mechanic into something more.
You’ll come for Statham, but you’ll leave thinking Foster might just be the next great action hero.
All things considered, this should have been a good film. The plot is interesting, the focus on the intimate life of a hitman is captivating at times and Foster’s performance is revelatory.
But as executed by West and Wenk, the sum of the film is substantially less than its parts. The dialogue is trite, as per typical action movie fare.
Wenk unadvisedly centers the film on a plot arc less stirring than what he and West had.
The film is no longer about assassination and the training of a young hitman, but instead is dominated by the digital explosions and action sequences that moviegoers have seen hundreds of times before.
Those who watch The Mechanic expecting an action picture with a twist will find gratification in the first forty minutes or so. Those seeking a rawer, more thoroughly dynamic action picture can find better elsewhere.