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The Mechanic

Jason Statham’s Killer Role

Jan. 28, 2011
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A Latin American drug lord is whisked from his private runway to his gated mansion, surrounded at all times by heavily armed bodyguards. But in The Mechanic, a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson flick, no one is safe from Arthur Bishop (Jason Stratham), a professional killer working for vaguely defined corporate paymasters. Somehow, Bishop has gotten himself into the drug lord’s indoor pool, waiting in full scuba gear for the kingpin to take a swim. Strangling him underwater while his guards look on obliviously, Bishop somehow escapes from the pool, changing clothes as security alarms clamor and an army of guards rush in from all sides. Calmly slipping out of the compound and strolling onto a nearby bridge, Bishop dives into the river below, catching a ride on the rear of a passing barge.

It’s just a normal day’s work for Bishop, a well-muscled man who wears an almost perpetual glower on a face as blunt and impassive as a wedge of cast iron. Oh, he leaves a trace of a smile during a sex scene and registers the shadow of regret after killing his mentor and boss, Harry (Donald Sutherland). The sex is gratuitous but the murder is the pivot on which The Mechanic turns. The CEO of the killing operation, a bloodless Wall Street type called Dean, orders the hit, claiming Harry had turned traitor, compromising missions and lives in exchange for money. Always the professional, Bishop carries out the assignment, but under that case hardened shell a conscience stirs, especially after Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) shows up demanding to be taught the ways of dad’s occupation as if to—what? Prove himself to the ghost of his old man?

Visually stylish but otherwise entirely appalling, The Mechanic’s plot has as many holes as the bullet-ridden bodies left behind by Bishop and his new sidekick, Steve. The sets are slick with gallons of fake blood. Of course, the story has a twist, but the turn is entirely predictable. “What I do requires a certain mindset,” Bishop explains in a voiceover as he unwinds in his truly excellent bachelor pad—a rustic modern house in the mossy bayous beyond New Orleans. We can tell Bishop is cool because of his large collection of vinyl LPs. And we suspect a cultivated streak lurks beneath the two-day stubble because his taste runs to classical piano etudes. Fortunately for the conscience of sensitive viewers, all of his victims (except the likable Harry) are totally bad guys, evidently deserving strangulation, which in various baroque forms is Bishop’s favorite method of execution.

It requires a certain mindset to write the screenplay for a movie like The Mechanic. Intelligence would only be a hindrance. Cynicism about the moviegoing public is an asset.


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