07 February 2011

First Impressions: The Mechanic

This is not a bad movie. It's an extreme distance away from being a good movie by any standard, but it's not too bad. The Mechanic (2011) is nothing but a very typical action/conspiracy bullshit roll in the hay. So let's dive in!

This is apparently actually a remake of a 1972 film by the same name starring Charles Bronson. I've never seen that one, my guess is that's also a very typical Bronson action film, one of dozens that comprised Bronson's career and persona. This is really no different besides swapping Bronson for Statham, who really has settled into a nice personality-free action career. Let's ramble on this topic for a tic actually - think about Bronson vs. Statham. Try to think of an impression of both. Who is more memorable or iconic? I mean, Jay's got the baldness and the taking-himself-too seriously aspects, but really he's too silent. Statham's acting is quiet without being angry. He plays these emotionally controlled, strong and silent type characters that just aren't that interesting. I mean, even Master Chief has a bit more personality than Statham.

So that's the guy running this film. I called this an action film tho the action is really very subdued. There aren't a whole lot of explosions until the last few moments and the first half is primarily shots of Statham brooding. None of it is all that interesting. The film trends that narrow line between mysterious origin and confusing lack of information. We never really find out what organisation Statham is working for, because supposedly it doesn't really matter, he just does his job. This is retarded. It's very difficult to judge the stakes and reasoning for much of his actions. He doesn't really have a problem killing his mentor Donald Sutherland (ridiculously phoning in a performance here) because he believes if he doesn't it will just be someone else to kill him. However, the consequences to him refusing the assignment can't be worse than his eventual resolution to kill everyone who hired him anyway. I mean, he kills them after learning they tricked him into killing Sutherland because Sutherland was trying to screw them over. They had no problem against Statham and didn't really treat him poorly or try to conspire against him. It's just really dumb.

Alright, now that we've got that angry rambling over plot and motivation out of the way we can dig into this film. The Mechanic is not the kind of flick that should hold plot as important. It takes itself so seriously though, and takes enough time to show brooding to attempt to establish the emotional state of its characters that when it can't pull off a satisfying sequence of events it detracts from the film. With something like this you've either got to go all the way nuts at this point (see all Nic Cage films) or put the time in for a more satisfyingly good movie (I think of something like The Shooter [2007] that did a nice job with a similar stoic-lead/conspiracy plot that gives a satisfying movie experience). Especially for a Statham movie, this needed to be goofier.

There's this other weird Boondock Saints (2000) kind of vibe of killing "only bad guys." I don't know why they pressed this so hard. Even when Statham and Ben Foster (the only enjoyable actor in this film) prepare to kill this famous Reverend, the film is careful to establish that he's more of a cult leader and also a rapist. Just so we're sure that the people sneaking in and killing a defenseless overweight man in his hotel room aren't morally ambiguous.

As for the action, there are some cool scenes, tho they're all pretty brief. Ben Foster is nearly raped and then kills some huge rival assassin for some reason, which is almost solely an excuse for a fight after he stupidly avoids what could have been an easy kill. The final kill-big-bad scene is also almost too easy, tho the motto of the movie seems to be Amat Victoria Curam, which is latin for "Victory Loves Preparation." There is actually less audacity to the scenario preparation than even a film like The Dark Knight (2008), but by its nature it makes the challenges of the protagonists less difficult and interesting.

So yeah, this film sucked. It doesn't have enough action to make up for its shortcomings and its plotting and characters just aren't that great. It's not necessarily a poorly constructed or shot film but there's just not that much here that's exceptional. A perfect installment for Jason Statham's already vigorous career.

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