Review by Jack Foley
IT’S not often that you look back on a Michael Winner film in appreciation but his 1972 thriller The Mechanic, starring Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent, was a career highpoint.
Simon West’s remake makes it look even better thanks to the dumbed down nature of the new-look screenplay.
The plot remains largely the same, albeit with more emphasis on spectacle than tension. Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is an expert assassin who specialises in hits that leave no evidence of his skills.
When he is hired by his boss (Tony Goldwyn) to kill his mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland), Bishop follows orders but then, in an effort to overcome his guilt, takes on Harry’s son, Steve (Ben Foster), as a protégé.
The two then take part in several more assassinations before Bishop’s company decides to target them, prompting a last act of retribution and secrets being revealed.
Winner’s original thriller actually made good use of the mounting sense of mistrust that existed between the two assassins, culminating in an ending that was as downbeat as it felt inspired (at the time).
West, though, chooses to incorporate the unease between the two men as an after-thought, opting instead to lay on one elaborate (and often explosive) set piece after another and, in so doing, making a mockery of Bishop’s early claim that the best assassin’s work unheard and unseen.
The memorable ending of the original, meanwhile, is revised to offer a more crowd-pleasing and less convincing finale that actually feels more ill-suited to what’s gone before.
In terms of performance, the film also largely underwhelms with Statham trotting out another of his moody killers and Sutherland wasted far too early as his mentor. Foster is the pick of the cast, exuding grief and menace when necessary, but even he has done this type of thing a couple of times before.
West, meanwhile, continues his decline from once promising action director (with Con Air) to average and sometimes distasteful as The Mechanic now sits alongside The General’s Daughter and the second Tomb Raider movie as action vehicles that promised far more than they deliver.
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 6, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Donald Sutherland interview