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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Mechanical failure
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Thursday, February 3,2011

Mechanical failure

By Dave Taylor

The Mechanic is Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), a crack assassin who can kill his targets without leaving a trace, and even — as we learn later — implicate third parties in the crime. Impressive. Except as we watch Bishop blunder his way through target after target, he’s clearly amateurish, leaving fingerprints and clues at every crime scene, never having a backup plan if something goes wrong and relying on luck to escape afterwards. The end result is an action film that just doesn’t work.

 

There’s a predictable father-son relationship between Bishop and his “handler” Harry (Donald Sutherland), which is reinforced by Harry complaining to Bishop about his ne’er-do-well son Steve (Ben Foster). In one particularly odd scene, Bishop offers parenting advice to Harry, even though he prides himself on being disconnected from his own emotions.

Later — surprise! — Steve becomes Bishop’s apprentice, eager to learn everything about being a mechanic.

One of the weaknesses in the story was Steve’s unpredictable, angry personality. A dangerous and headstrong thug, it’s never established why Bishop is willing to give up his privacy and safety to become a mentor. Guilt over being tricked into an earlier killing?

Maybe, but that would require that Bishop actually have normal human emotions, and regret is a difficult one for an assassin.

In one memorable and oddly homoerotic scene, Steve is given the task of killing hulking killer Burke (Jeff Chase) with an undetectable poison. Instead, he ends up fighting the far bigger man and makes a complete mess of the assassination. Bishop just shrugs it off and the film proceeds, something that made no sense given the fastidious nature of Bishop’s character.

Bishop also works for a private agency that contracts out its assassinations. Who are they? How did they find Bishop in the first place and how does he know some of his fellow assassins if they’re such a secret organization? There could have been an engaging subplot focused on the agency, but the film is squarely focused on Bishop himself, so while at the beginning we see him search a rural online newspaper for an online classified advert to get a new assignment, every subsequent communication from the firm is via cell phone or courier.

There’s also the puzzle of why Statham was cast at all.

The producers said that they brought Statham on board because of his “charismatic qualities,” but his role in The Mechanic is so extraordinarily uncharismatic that they could have cast anyone who knew how to throw a punch and shoot a gun. I’ve really enjoyed some of Statham’s earlier films, notably The Transporter, but if he’s going to be cast because of his charm and precision fighting style, why not make sure they’re part of the role he plays?

I really like action films and was quite disappointed with The Mechanic. It’s a film that could have been exciting and engaging, but instead ended up a lifeless, unengaging mess fueled by film clichés and completely incomprehensible to people who pay attention to plots and storylines. And what’s with the complete lack of women in the film too?

If you want to see an interesting film about a retired assassin, there are a bunch of choices, including The Killer, Reds and Shooter. If you want to explore the story of retired assassin and mentor, try the original 1972 The Mechanic. As for the remake? There are better ways to spend your time.

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