Review: THE MECHANIC - Great For A Statham & Bullets Fix But That's All

rating: 2.5

(introducing new OWF reviewer Harry Roth) I€™ll be straight up with you from the start and admit it, I€™m a bit of a Jason Statham fan. To some this next statement will sound profound, but I think he€™s the closest thing we Brits will ever get to having an action star of our own, and by that I mean somebody in the same mould as a certain American with a penchant for wearing vests and walking on broken glass. Add to this the fact that The Mechanic€™s director, Simon West, is responsible for the action behemoth that was Con Air, it was with great optimism that I ventured into this film. A Bond esque opening action sequence that sees Statham carry out a rather innovative underwater hit on a Columbian Cartel Boss prolonged my optimism further. And then the attempt at a plot began€. In this loose remake of the same-titled 1972 Charles Bronson starrer, Statham plays Arthur Bishop, kind of an amalgamation of his Expendables and Transporter personas. He€™s a professional hit-man, of the type we€™ve seen before, one with a strict code of rules that he adheres to and such professionalism ensures that he€™s pretty damn good at what he does. He lives a solitary existence and his only friend is Donald Sutherland€™s, mentor character, Harry Mckenna. In a horribly clunky scene set in a café, and with no humping camel in sight, we€™re treated to a generous portion of exposition whereby Harry tells us just how good Arthur is at killing people (despite the fact we€™ve seen with our own eyes how good he is only moments ago), and that his son, Ben Foster€™s Steve, is a bit of a bad egg. I can only assume that the purpose of this dull scene, which comprises of half of Sutherlands screen time, was to shoehorn in some kind of rapport between Arthur and Harry. It doesn€™t. We€™re then introduced to Tony Goldwyn€™s, Big Boss figure, Dean, who provides Arthur with information that Harry isn€™t all he seems and is fact dabbling in nefarious deeds of his own. Knowing that he€™s the only person who can get close enough to Harry, Dean tasks Arthur with dispatching of his only friend in the world. Rather than tell his boss where to shove it and setting out to prove Harry€™s innocence, kicking much ass along the way, which part of me feels would have made for a far more satisfying, albeit simpler, film, Arthur the consummate professional carries out the job with aplomb (Though this is preceded by a short scene that involves Arthur standing on his porch looking mildly troubled about the task at hand). The real plot begins now as, via a coincidental crossing of paths at Harry€™s grave, Arthur meets Harry€™s estranged son Steve (you know, the one we€™ve already been told is a bad egg). Steve then reveals his plan to find and take down the person responsible for killing his Dad, putting Arthur in a bit of a quandary. Foster then gets to display how unpredictable a loose cannon he really is and Arthur reluctantly agrees to take him under his wing and mentor him in the art of killing people, all in the hope that this will set Steve on the straight and narrow. Instead of then capitalising on a perfect opportunity to plough some pretty fertile dramatic territory, and dare I say it: provide us with some three dimensional characters, as Arthur battles with his guilt and the responsibility he now has towards Steve, making this more than the derivative nonsense that it€™s vastly becoming, we have a middle act comprising of a series of set-pieces where the new mentor and his charge kill various people in a variety of elaborate ways. Basically, it all becomes a bit of a shit €˜Leon€™ just without any of the heart. Whilst this will momentarily distract the action junkies amongst you, the problem here is that our protagonists have no clearly defined antagonist, which is a fundamental for films in this genre and we€™re only bludgeoned into caring about what€™s going on because the writers have ratcheted up the €˜badness€™ of the people being killed to 11 (there€™s a rival Hitman who likes to sleep with young boys and a sleazy, fraudster, Preacher who takes drugs and impregnates young girls). Just as the constant action begins to become totally soulless, a contrived scene at the airport sees Arthur discover, much to his chagrin, that actually Harry wasn€™t the bad guy after all, and that, surprise, surprise, it€™s actually Tony Goldwyn€™s corporate suit. You may guffaw, but at least we now have that much-needed antagonist that we€™ve been lacking. This provides Arthur, Steve and the plot with a shot of impetus and the two Hit-men set about taking down the real bad guy. Once that€™s taken care of, instead of exploring some weightier themes such as forgiveness and redemption, we have the inevitable showdown after the showdown, as Steve discovers who really killed his Father. As the end credits roll, apart from breathing a sigh of relief, I couldn€™t help but wonder if the Producers are hoping that they have another potential Statham franchise on their hands here. My hope is that they haven€™t. Overall, whilst there€™s certainly more than enough action set-pieces to keep hardened fans of The Transporter and Crank franchises in a state of contentment, any audiences looking for a little more than just a bang for their buck will leave this film feeling very unfulfilled. The Mechanic is in theatres tomorrow.

Harry Roth hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.