Wednesday, August 22, 2012

'The Mechanic' remake falls short of the original

Well, "The Expendables Week 2" didn't really get off the ground, especially since I haven't even had the time to see "The Expendables 2" yet... but I'll be posting reviews of films featuring the cast of the latest assembly of Action Movie Greats for the next few days anyway. Hell... Life might even cooperate to the point where I'll get to see the Big Movie this Thursday.

But first....

The Mechanic (2011)
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, and Donald Sutherland
Director: Simon West
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Bishop (Statham), ohe world's foremost assassins, is tasked with killing his long-time friend and handler (Sutherland) after it appears he has betrayed their employer. Bishop reluctantly performs the hit and then, motivated partly by guilt, takes on the friend's son (Foster) as an apprentice hit-man, teaching him the tricks of the trade.

The deep regard in which I hold the 1972 "The Mechanic", of which this is a remake, may be coloring my estimation of this film.

From beginning to end, this film is fairly solid. It's well-paced, the action scenes are all well-staged, the effects are nicely done (including the computer-generated blood-splatter... I only noticed it because I've developed a bad habit of looking for it; kudos to West and his special effects crew for being among the few filmmakers to know how to use that kind of CG effect properly on the screen), and the actors pretty much all deliver the type and quality of performances that we expect from them for the parts they are playing in a film like this.

Everything here is adequate... unless you have the misfortune of having seen the 1978 "The Mechanic." Then, you have the sense that you're watching a pale imitation based on a dumbed-down version of the original story.

It's not that Jason Statham is bad as assassin Arthur Bishop--it's just that his version doesn't come close to touching the icy cool of Charles Bronson's portrayal. It's not that Ben Foster is bad as Steve, the apprentice assassin--it's just that Jean-Michael Vincent made you so want to punch him in the face over and over. It's not that Donald Sutherland was bad as McKenna--it's that Keenan Wynn was dead-on perfect for the role as the doomed fixer.

And it might be that all the actors in the remake of "The Mechanic" would have come off better if the script they were working with had been as intelligent as the one in the original--it's as if they decided to trade flash for substance when they set about to make this version--and if the direction, cinematography, and editing would have been as perfectly artistic as in the original instead of just serviceable as it is here.

Finally, the filmmakers here manage to screw up the perfect ending of the original, muting whatever might have remained of the original film's tale about two violent men in a violent business.

If you're a Jason Statham fan, I'm sure you'll like this movie. It is very entertaining, and Statham does his usual solid job. However, if you want to see a more intelligent (if less action-packed) film about hitmen and the dangerous, amoral roads they travel, you need to check out the original.

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