Every now and then, a poll will come out listing who is the #1 in demand actor and/or actress. About five years ago, one might recall seeing Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson being listed as the top action stars that studios yearn for in their violent products. Well this guy is here to tell you that there is only one man for the job these days. Jason Statham. And his work in The Mechanic solidifies this. Hell, the guy even made Death Race tolerable.
The 88 minute feature is firing on all cylinders once it opens up and the bodies start to pile up. Do not think for one minute this is a mindless tough guy action flick though. A savvy Bourne-like intelligence is spread throughout. Perhaps this thinking could be a turn-off – and the same thought entered my mind during the opening act. Which is almost too methodical for its own good. By having patience and understanding the underlying theme of the story in relation to the characters’ actions, enables the quasi-slow set-up to pay huge dividends in the final two acts.
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a professional assassin who has a knack for making his work appear as if a terrible accident happened to his victims. For the most part, all of his marks are sinful characters and deserve what is bestowed upon them. His orders and payments come from one man, the wheel-chaired Henry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). Henry runs an empire/corporation that employs numerous assassins just like Bishop. Henry is also Bishop’s mentor and confidant. When they are not discussing “work” the conversation revolves around Henry’s out-of-control son Steve (Ben Foster). Steve kind of wants to join in the family business but he’s still a victim of his vices, which include drinking and mixing it up physically with others.
Bishop takes Steve under his wing and begins to train him in the art. An art where preparation is the key to victory and brute force isn’t always the modus operandi. Henry’s partner, Dean (Tony Goldwyn) isn’t thrilled about Bishop having Steve tag along on his missions. For he is going against protocol and the “jobs” have not been going smoothly because of this choice. So guess what happens next…Showdown time.
To say the storyline is well-disguised would be a flat-out lie. Yet the path it takes can have the audience guessing on what the final outcome will be. As stated above, the opening act seems to embrace the recent trend in action flicks, where the lead character is reflective and their day-to-day life is revealed. Point of this method is to build an emotional connection between the audience and our lead. This script depicts just enough to accomplish this and not bore the audience. Luckily, Simon West (Con Air) is at the helm, and he knew when the audience needed the adrenaline dial cranked up. Best part about the dial being cranked in this flick is that it stays at put once the intended level is reached.
Hand-to-hand combat, a few shootouts and quick hitting isolated carnage will have the audience going, “OHhhh” – which is then followed up by an approving chuckle. Cinematography needs to be clutch and it was for the most part. One or two fight/action sequences are deploying the overused shaky close-up crap. Aside from the pacing in the first act and when the above mentioned camera technique is on display, the flick is steady and solid. It can feel like a mild chess match, but when a piece is taken off the board, it is done so in a raw bloody manner.
By the way…Seriously directors? Get over the shaky camera gimmick. Audiences want to see the action in a larger scope, not extreme close-ups.
Overall, The Mechanic combines the pure joy of seeing explosions and a variety of human-combat battles, along with executing a workable plot that manages to engage the viewer. Maintaining this balance keeps this straight-forward delivery substantially entertaining for fans of the genre.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5