Film Reviews

THE MECHANIC

By • Feb 13th, 2011 •

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Director Simon West makes Statham and Foster sexy, sexy, ruthless killers. I want this to be Statham’s next franchise. Foster sexiness vibrates through a lousy haircut, bad facial hair, and a creepy cap.

Who remembers the 1972 Charles Bronson movie, THE MECHANIC? Good idea to update it without humanizing the characters or making them likeable. And thank God there is no abusive childhood or revenging his mother’s death, that made Arthur Bishop (Jason Stratham) a contract killer. However, it should be noted that being a contract killer does not pay well, since Arthur keeps eyeing an expensive boat.

Tax-wise contract killers are in a very high-income bracket.

But Bishop does generously tip his casual hookup. Bishop is a loner but he is not gay. We know this because we are shown a gratuitous, hot sex scene. (Put two men in a contract killer live-in relationship and homoerotic panic needs to be quickly and efficiently dispelled.)

Bishop is the master of the “death by misadventure” contract kill. We know how effortlessly he works when we see the clever way he slips inside a drug lord’s lair. The drug lord doesn’t take a poop without two machine-gun carrying bodyguards watching him. He’s like King Henry Vlll or a medieval Chinese child emperor (see THE LAST EMPEROR).
This is Bishop’s respected style of doing his job. His long-time contact is his mentor, Harry (Donald Sutherland), now confined to a wheelchair but also watched over by two hulking bodyguards. When Harry’s boss, sinister Dean (a rather bloated Tony Goldwyn), a man modelling himself on Madonna (whose daily diary is set in 15 minute increments*), contacts Bishop it is to advise him that Harry is a snitch who cheated him out of $15 million. It is up to Bishop to dispose of Harry. Having completed this contract, Arthur feels obliged, and maybe slightly guilty, so he takes on Harry’s hair-trigger, bitter son, Steve (Ben Foster).

Though Harry has squirreled away tens of millions of dollars, he has left Steve penniless. Why does Steve want to avenge his neglectful father he hardly spoke to? Harry left a big mortgage on his house! So Steve has to move in with Bishop while training to be a contract killer.

There’s a problem with Steve. He has to burn off frustration, anger, and non-specific hatred. Seems Harry passed over him for Bishop as his successor. Steve does not take direction very well, but Bishop is either (a) lonely for companionship (b) owes Harry, or (c) needs a young patsy to kill a gay contract killer rival.

Steve doesn’t like silent, leave-no-fingerprints, or bloodless kills. His first kill goes bad, very bad. I yelled out a few times. He ignored Bishop’s directions, but it was so much fun to watch.

Steve is a loner but he also is not gay. We know this because we are shown a gratuitous, hot sex scene between Steve and some woman in an alley.

There is no realistic police work. There are no cops walking through crime scenes with dead bodies littered all over the place. Bishop and Steve walk away from massive destruction of public property. Bishop and Steve never wear gloves. These are men who kill for money, not petty criminals with rap sheets and fingerprints on file. Nobody stops Bishop and Steve to exchange ID and insurance when they wreck a hundred vehicles.

Wait! I just got back from New Orleans (where Bishop lives) and I didn’t see any cops strolling the Latin Quarter.

The screenplay, by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino (THE MECHANIC’S original screenwriter), delivers the goods. And the famous 1972 ending is honoured.

Now on to the actors. Stratham is a unique star – uncompromised. And, he’s our only star who is going bald – not intentionally shaved bald, but genetically balding! Stratham conveys “purpose”. His determination and focus entraps us. Here in THE MECHANIC, he is cold and calculating. Pairing him with Foster was genius casting. I will watch anything with Ben Foster in it. I still think he was the 3rd best thing in 3:10 TO YUMA (Russell Crowe and Christian Bale succeed him) as Ben Wade’s obsessively devoted “buddy”. Wade had to kill him in the end because, as I continuously see everywhere in movies – homoerotic panic.

*It has been reported in the U.K.’s Daily Mail that Madonna’s kids have to schedule 15-minute increments of quality time with her. Sources tell the Daily Mail Madonna is happy to help with homework, have a singing session, or cook with Mercy, David, Rocco, and Lourdes—but only if a PA has scheduled it into her diary (presumably alongside the two to three hours she exercises each day).

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