Simon West is the man responsible for one of the most enjoyable action films of the 90s, the Nicolas Cage starrer Con Air. Jason Statham is arguably one of the most magnetic action heroes around… a believable one-man killing army in his Crank and The
Transporter series among many other roles. These two coming together for a remake of a forgotten Charles Bronson cult hit from the 70s promises a crash-bang-boom experience. Add one of the most gifted young actors Ben Foster to the mix, and you wouldn’t be faulted for having reasonably high expectations from The Mechanic. And yet, shockingly, there is not one punch worth your penny that this film has to offer.Jason Statham, playing Bronson’s role from the original, is Arthur Bishop- a professional hit-man who specializes in making the assassinations of his designated targets look like accidents. The very prospect of a hit-man specializing in such a crafty method of execution has the potential to amaze with skillfully machinated murders. All you get though is an opening kill that is fairly nifty, followed by a body count till the end which does not in the least support any evidence of Bishop’s supposed set of skills.
At the heart of both the original and this remake is Bishop’s relationship with his protégé, Steve. Reckless, full of unmotivated anger and with a latent predilection for sadistic violence, Steve is the son of Bishop’s mentor, Harry McKenna (played here by the leonine veteran Donald Sutherland). Having been convinced of Harry posing a threat to the ‘company’ due to his divulging vital insider information in lieu of money, Bishop agrees to terminate Harry at the behest of McKenna’s partner Dean (Tony Goldwyn). Unable to get over the guilt of his actions however, Bishop takes Steve under his wings to assuage his culpability.
The original, criticized back then for having too many slaughtering and stupid dialogues, fares as some existentialist classic compared to the pointless explosions and relentless noise of this update. It is perhaps a damning indictment of the deficient attention spans of today’s audiences that even with the exact same narrative as the original; this remake never seems to have any ‘stay’ at all. That is not to suggest that it is a fast-paced actioner. On the contrary, the sheer predictability of the plot and trite nature of the expository dialogues are enough to induce yawns every five minutes… which is lesser than the time it takes for anything remotely interesting to happen in this film.
The only good thing to happen to this remake is Ben Foster. Foster plays Steve with a menacing urgency and a bubbling anger neutered only by his smoking twitchiness. Alas, Foster’s act is too strong to be a foil to Statham whose trademark no-nonsense stare and laidback cool comes across more as uninterested indolence here. Statham and Foster are supposed to be the pair driving the film, but both of them seem to share more chemistry with their ammo devices than with each other.Finally, what’s with professional specialized hit-men Bishop and Steve leaving their fingerprints all over the crime scene! Isn’t that the first thing they teach you in assassin- school? But then, the bigger problem with The Mechanic is not the fingerprints that are
there… it is that it doesn’t have any fingerprints of the talented director at the helm.