Jason Statham is the token action face. I see him in a role with fighting, lots of guns, fast cars and big explosions I'm pretty much sold. You give me a a hard R rating for brutal violence, language and nudity again, sold. You've got me in the door but once I'm there, I'd hope for better execution. With the combination of a proven action star in Jason Statham, a talented actor in Ben Foster and a director, Simon West who certainly knows how to tickle the senses, this action remake fell well below the bar.
If I were to review this film solely as a remake of the 1972 Michael Winner film starring Charles Bronson it comes up less than in every department except the performance of the apprentice. Ben Foster is better than what he is given to do. To his credit, Foster is the only actor in "The Mechanic" who comes across devoting real emotion throughout and not just going through the motions. In retrospect, Foster is actually over-acting compared to Jason Statham and the rest of the cast. Maybe I'm being too hard, Donald Sutherland does give a decent albeit very brief performance.
One thing that really bothered me in Simon West's direction is how rushed everything feels. Arthur Bishop is an elite assassin who is training a young protégé, then why the hell is everything at break-neck speeds? "The Mechanic" has very little patience, something that its predecessor exhibited well. For instance in one sequence Bishop is going to teach Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) to shoot, we then transition into a video montage of Statham and Foster firing automatic weapons mindlessly for 90 seconds. Again, where is the patience of the assassin? Director Simon West makes these hired guns out to be methamphetamine freaks, when they are suppose to be precision killers who are meticulous and thorough in every way. When everything should feel like it is well thought out, instead it comes across as hurried and under-prepared.
Another big question mark for me is what is going on with all of the close takes on Jason Statham fighting? Its one thing to frame everything up-close and use a ton of hand-held shots when the actors are not well trained fighters, but Statham knows his way around action pretty darn well. Its okay to pull back every once and a while so we can see everything unfolding. Not just from the chest up. I'd like to place full blame on cinematographer Eric Schmidt, but director Simon West has made some well known action films including Con Air leaving me to feel he is the one in the need for a scolding. On a positive note, the fight sequence in McKenna's first kill is electrically choreographed. Some brutal blows back and forth and a couple interesting choices of props used amidst the scuffle.
If there is one thing that I did enjoy throughout the film was the action and carnage. The movie earns its R rating with a number of graphic deaths and tons of blood. It went the complete opposite direction from the original which features entirely bloodless deaths. Here in 2011's 'Mechanic' we are treated to plenty of blood. Critics of cgi blood beware, the film is stuffed with it. Every explosive shot or spurt of blood is manufactured through technology. The actors might have some fake blood painted on them, but what splatters about most certainly is not.
While the action is energizing enough, the simple fact is there is not enough of it. Worse yet the story in between the action is dull, uninspired and often cringe worthy to say the least. Of particular note is the side story to Steve McKenna's character. I understand he is coping with the loss of his father but Simon West over-emphasizes on this aspect of the character was offensive. Heavy handed stylized cinematography combined with erratic behavior of the character just did not sit right with me.
At the end of the day viewers are better off waiting for home video or cable on this title. The original still holds up fairly well and illustrates it has a better understanding of how to treat mentorship assassin tale. This version of "The Mechanic" just falls flat in too many departments. Fans of Jason Statham are sure to be compelled to see it and rightfully so, but you're better off re-watching one of his other better action films like Crank or The Transporter than waisting your hard earn money on this in theaters.