1/28/11

Review: The Mechanic (2011)


The Mechanic, remade from Charles Bronson's The Mechanic (1972), which I can't remember if I've ever seen, is a desultory action movie, usually exactly the right sort of action movie to be rescued by an insanely charismatic action performance from the insanely charismatic Jason Statham. I've liked him a lot in everything I've seen him in, even just-passable movies. Alas, even Statham's charm cannot help, because the film itself is not workable even as a last-ditch canvas against which something interesting might stand out.

The film starts with a pretty soggy assassination effort against a drug lord in Baranquilla, Colombia, if I read the screen right. It suffers from some editing dislocation, as do most of the action sequences. You follow along in your head, and then suddenly Statham's ducking furtively through a doorway onto a darkened street or like that.

So then you're like, "Somebody must be following him." Then you're like, "Oh, this is a new scene or something." Then you're like, "Nope. I have no idea why that fifteen seconds was located there."

Even that wouldn't be so bad if there were compelling characters. But we just have Statham as Arthur Bishop, a super-wealthy assassin who takes corporate contracts and specializes in getting the details right, according to his own narration. We only get to see that validated once or twice, however, and not especially convincingly, either, because there are complications.

Bishop's mentor and boss is Harry McKenna, played by the great (-er than this, surely) Donald Sutherland. He meets Bishop at the fish camp in New Orleans (where it is reasonably priced to film) to pay him off and reminisce about the good old days. The New Orleans setting adds some atmosphere, in that nobody seems to have trouble breathing until they're supposed to in the story.

When an operation gone wrong leads them into conflict with one another, Harry ends up dead, and Bishop ends up recruiting Harry's son, the loose cannon Steve (Ben Foster, dedicated) into a similar sort of mentor/trainee relationship.

Mentor/trainee relationships can be a lot of fun in action movies. It all depends upon the chemistry between the two. Then there are a lot of boring twists. Mark Isham's score is pretty good. In another film, it might have added soul and rhythm, but here it had to start from zero. Tony Goldwyn is excellent, even in a part we've sort of seen him in before.

I give it two stars because some of the action sequences do manage to get the blood pumping a bit, and some Statham fans might find it an okay way to spend an hour and 40 minutes. Most others should avoid it.

There are so many great movies playing right now! Each one you see will count as a vote against dreck at the box office, and insufficiently fun and exciting Jason Statham movies.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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