Guest Reviewer: Andrew Walsh
If I have a guilty pleasure, it’s definitely Action / Revenge films. Death Wish, Kill Bill, Taken, Death Sentence, all films with clear good guys doing not so good things to very bad people. Often with simple protagonists with whom the audience can identify with to allow a catharsis for the audience to release pent up anger against the villains. They are simple movies made for simple reasons. Certainly not made to get the audience thinking, the last time that happened was with The Brave One (and it didn’t turn out so good). I remind you of this because The Mechanic needed to get few things right, but fails so terribly at key moments.
The film follows Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) who is a “mechanic,” a high-end corporate assassin (yes, he works for a single company) who is given an assignment to kill his mentor and chairman of the company he works for (Donald Sutherland, who appears to be reprising his role from The Italian Job). While reluctant at first, Bishop carries out his mission. He afterwards runs into the man’s son, Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) who decides he wants Bishop to teach him his trade. Steve begins to learn gradually, but proves to be somewhat of a difficult student. After screwing up several hits for the company, the new chairman puts out a contract on Bishop, who decides to return the favor.
Yeah, pretty simple. It’s a remake, but I haven’t seen the original. The only thing I can compare it to is Leon The Professional, but only in the basic premise. The story takes quite a few leaps in logic and is lacking in character development. Luckily, it’s all in good fun and you aren’t forced to take anything too seriously.
One of the few things the movie gets (mostly) right is the action. A lot of it is well done and nicely choreographed. There are two particularly brutal scenes involving Ben Foster’s character. One shows a brawl that breaks out after his first hit goes terribly wrong. What was supposed to be done quietly and quickly becomes loud and violent when Steve is given no choice but to kill the man by force. It’s an incredibly brutal fight scene, with both men throwing each other through walls, shelves and bashing each other against counter-tops and doors. And we see every little thing. Unfortunately, after that all the action sequences are let downs. Most of the blood and violence in other sequences are done with CGI instead of the practical effects of the earlier scenes. This severely lessons the impact and makes the remainder action scenes feel limp and lifeless.
The other thing the movie does get right is Ben Foster. Foster is one of the most talented actors of his generation, but has unfortunately flown under the radar for most of his career. Most audiences might recognize him as Angel from X-men 3, but audiences should instead recognize him as the villains of Hostage and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Foster has shown that he can take relatively simple roles and make them memorable, and he manages to do a similar job with this film. Unfortunately, that also leads to the film’s biggest problem.
THIS NEXT SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS OF THE ENDING! However, the ending is not so much of a twist but more of a slight surprise. If you do not wish to know the ending just skip this last section.
There is meant to be a lot of tension and irony in the fact that Foster’s character is learning to be a killer from the man who murdered his own father. Before getting revenge on the man who actually ordered the assassination of his father, Steve finds that Bishop is in fact the one who pulled the trigger. After they succeed, he decides that revenge is the only reason you would ever get into a trade as an assassin. After “revealing” to Bishop that he knows the truth, Steve offers one last chance of redemption. But Bishop accepts his fate and allows Steve to set off an explosion to kill him. The film seems to end there, but goes on to show that Bishop had already rigged an explosion elsewhere that kills Steve, while Bishop himself escapes the car explosion. What??????
This whole ending renders the film utterly pointless. Due to the fact that Bishop is an enigma, the character we follow and identify with becomes Steve. We identify with him and see him grow as an individual… only to be heartlessly (and pointlessly) killed 30 seconds before the movie ends.
But wait! Maybe this is meant to symbolize how audiences don’t properly connect with onscreen violence, and by killing the one character the audience can identify with is effectively forcing an emotional response from the audience? Maybe it’s all meant to make the audience contemplate the disconnect between onscreen violence and real life violence?!?!?! I might buy that if it weren’t for the fact the man who made this film directed Con Air.
However, the ending seems to be a reshoot of some kind. After Ben Foster is shown to kill Jason Statham, he walks off somberly into the sunset as the screen fades to black… only for the movie to keep on going. Instead, the movie ends with Ben Foster dieing while Jason Statham drives a big manly truck into the sunset. The former would have been a good, contemplative ending. Instead, I have the distinct feeling that some test audiences or executive producers severely screwed this up.
Entertainment Value: 7
Production Value: 5