DVD Release Date: May 17, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: January 28, 2011
Rating: R (for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity)
Genre: Action, Drama, Remake
Run Time: 92 min.
Director: Simon West
Actors: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Chase, James Logan, Eddie J. Fernandez
Love him or hate him, one thing's for sure: There's never any ambiguity in anything starring Hollywood's go-to tough guy Jason Statham.
Like Crank, The Transporter and The Expendables before it, Statham is clearly in his element when executing grueling feats of ridiculousness, and The Mechanic, a remake of the 1972 thriller with Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, is certainly no exception.
Surprisingly enough, however, Statham's character isn't nearly as one-note this time around (more on that in a minute), one small surprise in what's essentially a Robert Rodriguez (Machete, Grindhouse) knock-off with some unexpected, extreme male bonding thrown in for good measure.
This time around, the always fierce and fearsome British actor plays an elite professional hit man named Arthur Bishop. In addition to eliminating his targets with utmost precision, Arthur also has an appreciation for the finer things in life, namely cashmere, classical music and the commitment-free company of any supermodel he chooses. In fact, for someone determined not to invest much emotionally in well, anything or anyone, he's got a pretty great system worked out.
But from time to time, the collateral damage that inevitably comes with being a killer for hire can't help but tug at your heart (he is human underneath all that muscle, after all), and that's exactly what happens to Arthur when his mentor and longtime colleague Harry (Donald Sutherland, who's memorable in limited screen time) is unexpectedly killed. Hoping to find a compelling reason, or at least an explanation, for why the organization needed to eliminate Harry, Arthur winds up crossing paths with Harry's troublemaking son Steve (Ben Foster, The Messenger).
Given that he drinks way, way too much and is known for picking fights at the proverbial drop of a hat, Steve isn't the sort of guy that most people want to get mixed up with, yet Arthur senses a valuable opportunity to help him—something Steve's late father might've wanted, no? So before he has much time to consider the consequences, Arthur is determined to teach Steve everything he knows, including the wisdom "not to ever kill anyone with a motive."
Of course, there's quite a learning curve in learning to slash, strangle and shoot someone, and the filmmakers aren't exactly shy about showing what happens when a massacre goes seriously awry, as it often does when Steve first gets going. If anything, everyone behind The Mechanic is consistently striving for even more creative ways for ending someone's life, which is mostly played off in kitschy B-movie fashion but is still very gory at the core.
Beyond all the gratuitous displays of violence, there's a quasi-interesting dynamic in the very disturbing bond that develops between Arthur and Steve, though. By taking Steve under his tutelage, it's the first time when Steve has made himself vulnerable to anyone, including the women he's shared a bed with. Funny enough, if it wasn't for all the murder, The Mechanic almost has the squishy male-bonding underbelly showcased in many a Judd Apatow film or most recently, in the Vince Vaughn-Kevin James flick The Dilemma.
So will the friends that kill together stay together, and should you even care? While I'm guessing there's a far better way to encourage the importance of guys opening up a little, The Mechanic is a notch above its more brainless predecessors. Still, this small nugget of wisdom comes at a very high price, namely that staggering body count that Arthur and Steve don't really care all that much about, even as they're growing up—and becoming better versions of their morally flexible selves.
Drugs/Alcohol: Copious amounts of alcohol are consumed in several scenes, and Steve is shown inebriated a couple of times. Steve is also a chain-smoker, and one time he uses marijuana instead of your standard-issue cigarettes. Drugs are occasionally used as part of the kill, too.
Language/Profanity: The "f" word and sh-- are the screenwriters' favorite expletives of choice, plus Jesus' name is paired with f--- on one occasion. God's name also misused with da-- on several times.
Sex/Nudity: One of Arthur's victims is arranged in a manner that looks he was engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation when he died. To strengthen the case, Arthur has porn playing in the background with two women caressing and licking each other's breasts. Steve engages in a bit of rough sex with a random stranger he meets in a bar (no explicit nudity). After Arthur has sex with an acquaintance, the camera lingers on their naked bodies, save for their genitals, which are blocked from view.
Violence: If you're squeamish about violence, particularly, gory, graphic and bloody violence, this won't be the movie for you. From the opening reel, The Mechanic isn't shy about ending human life in spectacular, bone-crunching fashion. Men are shot, strangled, slashed, gouged, hacked, kicked and even burst open, thanks to a garbage truck's forklift. In one scene, a camera cable is shoved down the victim's throat.
Religion: One of Arthur's targets is a con man who proclaims that he's "The New Messiah." Not only does he say that he's got "the Spirit's work to do" but he claims he's also "touched by God."
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.