The Mechanic Movie Review: Jason Statham Goes Hitman in Remake of Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic
The Mechanic, much like 2008’s “The Bank Job,” makes you think that Jason Statham might be looking for looking for roles that make him a bit less of a superhero than his more iconic “Transporter” or “Crank” film series. And really, when you head to a Jason Statham film, you’re expecting to see a bare-chested Statham beating the living daylights out of 10 or twenty people at once, followed by beating the tar out of a Bond henchman or one of the more brutish villains in the Batman pantheon. Repeat twice and it’s usually all good fun in a Western take on Hong Kong cinema.
The Mechanic is a bit different. It’s a remake of the 1972 original pairing of Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner, who would later re-team for the Death Wish franchise. Bronson, while never really lacking in the imposing figure category, would have been roughly 50 years old when film the original Mechanic. Then again, while Bronson never lacked for body count, his more taciturn characters tended not to take on multiple enemies bare-chested (except perhaps in Chato’s Land) and weren’t into precisely the same kind of martial arts influenced combat as you expect from a Statham movie. This clip from “The Evil That Men Do” illustrates Bronson’s version of the marital arts.
So here, we have Statham playing a character that’s not exactly a superhero. Well, a bit more of a superhero than the Bronson original version, after all, you do need to have a serious hand-to-hand combat scene if it’s a Statham flick, but you only really get one fist-a-cuffs scene from Statham.
The overall tone of the film is much more dour than the usual Statham pantheon, in keeping with the original concept: after killing his mentor, an elite assassin takes on the son of his mentor as an apprentice. Statham has one weakness in a role like this, and that’s his likeability. He can mute it a bit, but he can’t really shut it down. Not so much a world weary hitman, he comes off more like special operations soldier with a wetworks assignment. Moral ambiguity is downgraded to ethical questions at the appropriate points in the script.
The problems with the film stem from that downgrading. Frankly, the film is dumbed down a little bit. When the premise is set up, maybe 15 minutes into the film, everyone in the theater knows how it’s going to end and what’s going to precipitate the ending. While basically staying faithful to the original, the more philosophical parts of the film are downplayed or eliminated and the cleverness of mechanizations and plotting are taken out of the ending.
Perhaps it’s inappropriate to criticize Statham for not going dark enough when the film kept his character away from the darkest bits.
On the whole, it’s an adequate action film with more gunplay than kung fu. It has a much more serious tone than your typical Statham movie, but you still have some of the action elements that Statham’s fanbase shows up for. Call it two and a half stars, and give either director Simon West or the producers (who knows who really made the call here) a Bronx cheer for lightening up a movie about an assassin. I do think Statham would have been up for darker fare.