Movie News & Reviews

'The Mechanic' doesn't push red line enough

Maybe the reason professional assassination organizations are alwayshaving so many troubles and double-crosses is that hitmen and thepeople who hire them are kind of dicks.

The job just calls for a certain type of person, the same way being amovie critic calls for a person with impeccable integrity, the soul ofa poet, and biceps that burst like BP pipelines. Wait, too old. Makethat biceps that burst like New Orleans levees. Anyway, the guys whorun murder-for-hire operations should probably look into thisoccupational hazard with their actuaries. Maybe they could getInevitable Betrayal coverage. Then maybe it won't cost me aquarter million damn dollars to say hello to my trumpet-playingneighbor.

The antisocial nature of a hitman's job is probably why moviesfeaturing them as protagonists strain so hard to make them likable."Why, he doesn't kill women or children! One more miracle andwe've got ourselves a saint."

The Mechanic doesn't go that far, but despite its overall competence, it doesn't bring much that's new,either.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Jason Statham is an extremely professional assassin, capable of makingthe toughest hits look like accidents. But his mentor, DonaldSutherland, has sold out the company they work for. The bosses wantStatham to take him out.

Sutherland's death brings his screw-up son Ben Foster back to town.Foster knows what Statham does and wants to learn. But Foster's hitsare messy and obvious -- and Statham's bosses won't stand for it muchlonger.

Which means, you know, mercenary death squads all running in like"BRRT BRRRRT" with their machine guns that look like they weremanufactured by William Gibson. Good actiony grit has Statham twosteps ahead of his enemies, which is the perfect position toroundhouse them from. Sometimes, I fear Statham won't be able to makemany more movies about killing everyone in sight, as natural selectionwill soon eliminate the subset of humans interested in messing withhim.

But The Mechanic has more on its mind than blood and thingsthat go boom. Co-written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino (whoalso wrote the 1972 version), it provides a great role for Foster as aviolently angry son unwittingly working with the man who killed hisfather.

As an actor, Foster is like sprinkles on pastry, or leashes onchildren: his presence makes everything better. He's got what theycall "intensity," which is critic code for "I do not want to be lockedin a small room with this man because I fear being eaten alive." Asusual, he puts that intensity to good use. Most bloody thrillers arelike a roller coaster, exciting but constrained to safe rails.Foster's part and performance often suggests we're about to fly offthe track.

But despite all the chances The Mechanic has to careen intodangerous places, it never really does. Its subtler, more dramaticconflicts aren't handled any more interestingly than the flashyconflicts of one guy with a gun against some other guys with moreguns.

I'm not gonna say that makes it crummy. I'll take mediocre genre workover mediocre Oscar-bait dramas seven days of the week. That'sall the days of the week. So you can see I am serious.

Mediocre isn't the right word for The Mechanic, either.Director Simon West keeps up a quick pace, delivers terse action, andkeeps us on board with Statham and his violent profession withoutobvious manipulation.

For me, that became a problem: every time themovie approaches an interesting moral ledge, it backs right off

Grade: B-

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