Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Christa Campbell, Jeff Chase, Beau Brasso
Distributed by: CBS Films
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genres: Drama, Action, Remake
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a 'mechanic' - an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It's a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But when his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed - he wants those responsible dead.
His mission grows complicated when Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster) approaches him with the same vengeful goal and a determination to learn Bishop's trade. Bishop has always acted alone but he can't turn his back on Harry's son. A methodical hit man takes an impulsive student deep into his world and a deadly partnership is born. But while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves. -- (C) CBS films
To paraphrase Roger Murtaugh, 43-year-old Jason Statham might be getting too old for this bone-crunching, head-smashing, action-thriller nonsense.
Take this into consideration. Statham's latest, a taut remake of Charles Bronson's vengeance thriller The Mechanic, boasts a jarring fistfight near the middle of the film's second act. Walls are demolished, furniture is shattered, faces are bloodied, and bones are broken. But the explosive scuffle -- truly one of the grittiest, most authentic on-screen brawls I've seen in recent months -- takes place between a 350-pound gorilla of an assassin and Ben Foster, Statham's younger co-star.
Say it ain't so, Stath!
Now, we're not ready to put Statham out to pasture. And the steely, chrome-domed hero gets in a few licks as Mechanic rolls along. (A claustrophobic fight between Statham and a rogue spy set on an airport shuttle bus is creatively staged.) But for an unstoppable force such as Statham -- who has hooked himself up to car batteries, driven along the sides of skyscrapers, and tussled with legendary action icons over the years -- The Mechanic resembles a metaphorical passing of the torch, a slowing down of sorts so that the next generation can give it a go.
That's not such a bad thing, however, if it's someone like Foster who is receiving the baton. The unpredictable talent, himself a powder keg of Method rage, pairs nicely with stone-cold Statham as Mechanic finds its groove. Loosely following the plot of Bronson's 1972 thriller, director Simon West's film finds killer-for-hire Arthur Bishop (Statham) agreeing to train Steve McKenna (Foster), the estranged son of his latest victim, in an effort to assuage his guilt. What could go wrong? Well, a lot, it seems, and the combustible couple inflicts pain and suffering as they go after the emotionless suit (Tony Goldwyn) who pulls their strings.
Mechanic is straightforward, but enjoyable, pulp. Because Statham and Foster both lend an unpredictable, anything-goes lunacy to their outlaw characters, we're willing to go that extra, uncomfortable mile whenever the film feels like pushing the envelope. Watch Bishop jam a teenage girl's hand into a garbage disposal just so her father will spill vital secrets and tell me Statham doesn't sell the scene's urgency.
West also knows when to hold his audience's hand (no pun intended), and also how long to hold it, so that motivations and double-crosses aren't spoonfed to us in obvious sound bites. The Mechanic's screenplay isn't nearly as efficient as West's direction, but holes are glanced over with crisp cinematography and rapid editing tricks. Granted, those who've seen the Bronson original will see the final twist coming (though West's take is more explosive, to say the least). Everyone else will just be impressed by how calm, cool and collected Statham continues to look in almost any action situation. But for how much longer? That's what I'm dying to know.