Steve, if you’re reading this, then you’re dead
I don’t think this mechanic can fix a weak script, dialogue or characters.
I laboured over writing this review, despite seeing this film on Saturday I only manage to drum up any enthusiasm in writing it the next Wednesday. I don’t find The Mechanic to be a terrible film but a rather perfunctory one. I hoped it would be a brainless action film but I have to say while it succeeded in reaching that low ambition I still didn’t find the film to be appealing.
Its best not to expect much from a film starring Jason Statham, in fact the last film I saw with him was the risible Expendables but on his own his brand of action can be tacky but enjoyable. Crank was a mindless and thoroughly enjoyable actioner, The Transporter films were a little more inventive providing Statham a showcase for his fighting abilities but again the stories never tried to be anything more than barely coherent.
He’s not a good actor, he can’t carry a film through his acting whether it’s his gravelly voice or his limited ability, his presence is mainly physical. So when The Mechanic tried to insert a sense of characterisation it felt so at odds and was executed in such an underwhelming manner that it made for a rather mundane experience.
The Mechanic concerns Statham’s Arthur Bishop, a hit man working for one of those big, unnamed shady corporations that kill people they don’t like (or as the film weakly justifies that they’re not “good people”) and is assigned to kill his mentor and friend Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland).
As far as I can tell he’s conflicted about it but considering Statham’s face has the same stony expression for most of the movie I’ll assume he is. He meets McKenna’s vagabond of a son Steve (Ben Foster) who urges Bishop to teach him the ways of being a hit man in order to find some purpose in his miserable life.
He takes him on and in the process of training finds out that he’s been set up and along with McKenna’s son sets out to terminate his former employees with extreme prejudice. What follows is all completely unsurprising and formulaic and even with limited expectations I couldn’t find anything of note to be interested in.
It doesn’t help that when the film attempts some characterisation director Simon West seems to think that having Statham and Foster in the same room will amount to creating some kind of camaderie. There is (in an ever so slight way) but the characters themselves feel so superficial that it’s hard to care about their relationship.
Foster’s McKenna is an angry, wandering loner (is there any other kind?) whose life never amounted to much. He’s estranged from his father (Statham is far closer to him than he is) and to top it off is a very self-destructive and combative young man. This is in contrast to Statham’s mannered, precise and low key Bishop who lives alone and does nothing to attract attention.
It’s part and parcel of his job, to kill people and leave the scene in a way that ensures that the death looks like an accident rather than an assassination. However Foster and Statham are both so dour and serious in their performances that they both achieve the same level of monotony.
I would have liked to have seen just a little more fun (well as much as you can when you’re murdering swathes of henchmen). You wouldn’t expect this film to be about the toil killing people has on the soul; yet it manages to squeak this tangent in an attempt to add some substance when you wished it had gone full steam ahead with a more ridiculous premise and execution.
The action itself is violent but very much violence for violence sake. It’s all competently done but never manages to be thrilling or exciting in the manner it wants to be. The first scene displays an inventive kill and escape but each scene after that features a copious amount of headshots, very noticeable CGI blood, cars smashing into other cars (or people) and some very lazy setups.
There’s no tension, no attempt to do anything different from the norm, just another passable action scene with men in suits shooting and invariably missing their targets while Foster and Statham stylishly kill as many people as they can.
While Statham is in his comfort zone I’m slightly depressed to see Ben Foster in this film. Reading interviews his enthusiasm is apparent in attempting to make a balls-out action film but this is so undercooked and anaemic that I felt unsatisfied coming out of the cinema.
Mini Anden as a New Orleans prostitute is there purely as eye candy and apart from being naked in half her scenes she doesn’t make much of an impression. Tony Goldwin as one of the partners in the ‘unnamed shady corporation’ plays it rather straight and as a result is rather underwhelming as well.
The Mechanic never really aspires to be anything significant, it doesn’t distinguish itself from any other action film and on that basis may suffice as some sort of cinematic indulgence.
It’s a passable, redundant film which if you think you’d like a Statham/Foster combo, a pointless sex scene and some inventive kills then you may find something of interest or something that entertains for 90 minutes. If you’ve seen the trailer then there’s not much depth to be mined from watching the film and while I don’t hate The Mechanic, I really don’t care for it either.