Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop
Ben Foster as Steve McKenna
Tony Goldwyn as Dean
Donald Sutherland as Harry McKenna
Jeff Chase as Burke
Mini Anden as Sarah
James Logan as Jorge Lara
John McConnell as Vaughn
Christa Campbell as Kelly
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a mechanic, a professional assassin, one of the best. He’s so good that when his organization hires him to take out his own mentor (Donald Sutherland), he goes about the job with his usual detachment and efficiency.
But even hitmen have hearts and souls, and Bishop is no different. The closest thing he has to a relationship is a prostitute he visits on a regular basis, and he has begun to dream of escape. Instead he digs himself further in when he takes on Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) as his apprentice, just so he can have someone to talk to.
Simon West’s remake of the original Charles Bronson thriller is exactly what you might expect, exchanging introspection and suspense for amped up action sequences, giving up on existentialism for nihilism. On the other hand, taken in itself, it’s not a bad modern action film, with at least an interest in characters, even if it doesn’t know where to put that interest.
Just on a purely action movie basis, when “The Mechanic” gets going it’s not bad. West (“Con Air”) is an old hand at this and knows how to put an action scene together. Bishop and Steve’s escape from a high rise after a hit gone wrong is the highlight, fast paced and brutal. Unfortunately he’s not as good at the suspense side of it, which a lot of the film is focused on, so much so that the big action finish is not the conclusion. It creates a schizophrenic film to say the least.
Steve is a troubled man, we’re told. He’s been bouncing around from job to job, not entirely sure what to do with himself. That is, until the first time he sees Bishop at work and realizes he can express his internal self-hatred outwards. He may be a burgeoning psychopath, creating a standard action movie dichotomy with Bishop.
This would be all well and good if Steve didn’t have a legitimate beef with Bishop, who did kill his father. While the film spends a decent and interesting amount of time teasing if Steve is going to find that out what he will do if he finds out, it’s ultimate decision is so nihilistic it leaves a horrible taste in your mouth if you think about it for more than a few minutes.
“The Mechanic” does get a boost from better performances than small action films usually get. Where the name of that game is machismo and lots of it, Statham and Foster spend more time on introspection, trying to figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing. Foster (“The Messenger”) is particularly good casting for this kind of thing, with dead eyes and a flat voice, which is lucky because the script leaves the subtext entirely up to the actors.
If you do want an ambiguous thriller about the inner lives of hitmen, watch the original “Mechanic.” If you just want a flashy modern action film, the new one will do.