Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Mechanic (2011)

The Mechanic is a remake of a 1970s Charles Bronson flick, and it’s released in January – expectations should be tempered. But it also offers Jason Statham, continuing his work as the most reliable tough guy of his era, and Ben Foster, as the most reliable dangerously off-kilter nut job. Both men excel in a limited but useful niche, and The Mechanic is a familiar stomping ground.

So it should come as no surprise that the film is a mixed bag, which keeps consistent with director Simon West’s career success percentage. Beginning with 1997’s Con Air and continuing through The General’s Daughter (1999), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and When a Stranger Calls (2006), the man has established himself as an expert in mediocrity, and that’s exactly what you get here.

Statham plays a hit man, a loner with very little connection to the world aside from his wheelchair-bound mentor, played by Donald Sutherland in what is essentially a retread of his role in 2003’s The Italian Job – he’s here to be betrayed, to die, and to motivate through death. And once again he’s left a kid behind (Foster), broken by his death and encouraged to join the mentee in vengeance.

The plot devices are easy enough to devise – Statham finds a connection in Foster, and grows into the mentor role as the two participate in the most dangerous game. Etc. etc. The script from Lewis Wenk (who successfully displayed his own mediocrity with 2006’s 16 Blocks) and original Mechanic scribe Lewis John Carlino is low in creativity and logic, but solid enough in execution. And execution is why we’re here.

As a blunt device of death and destruction, The Mechanic is pretty alright. The action is tightly staged and generally interesting, and the livewire characters bring a grungy charm to their brotherly bond. But their story is rarely anything but predictable, and when they do veer into passages unknown, it’s seldom a success – a jaunt into murky waters of near-pedophilia homosexuality is probably not what the target audience is here for.

Passively entertaining but ultimately forgettable, The Mechanic is a temporary fix – better action entertainment is still to come.

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