Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Mechanic (2011) - A crass American equivalent to Corbijn's European The American, if that isn't too ironic

Viewing context:
Cineworld Bradford + Jason Statham action vehicle + opening weekend + 10pm showing = big ‘gangsta’ wannabe rude-boy turnout. Who, it must be said, were all really well behaved; testament to the film’s entertainment value.

Directed by Simon West, director of the legendary Con Air (didn’t know this before viewing; no wonder I was so pleasantly surprised)
Story and Screenplay by Lewis John Carlino, writer of the 1972 version (Ignorantly, I had previously no idea of this original’s existance). Richard Wenk (16 Blocks) also contributing to the screenplay

What Happened:
Plain and simple action/hit-man genre film. Jason Statham’s Arthur Bishop takes under his wing Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), the son of his old friend/mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) - who also happens to be his last hit. Bishop tries to bring him up to his regimented standard, but the youthful, unruly McKenna has his own eccentric style. Plenty of over-masculine shenanigans and brutal deaths ensue.


As a non-ironic display of machismo it is important to concede that most of the point of this film existing is for the spectacle of things blowing up, brains blowing out and screwdrivers rammed through faces. Reading past this a little, I thought that there was a thinly veiled idea that both ends of a spectrum are not healthy. There seemed to be an effort to promote the balance between the overly formulaic control freak (Bishop) and the chaotic, out of control degenerate (McKenna), but this theory didn’t hold up toward the end.
I don’t know if having one of the most physically intimidating and brutish displays of might come from a gay hit-man was some way of counteracting its unapologetic masculinity or not, but it was something to note.

What it did particularly well:

The brutality really was entertaining. I was expecting Transporter levels of action, but that wasn’t what the film was about. It was a little slower paced than that, but with the violence in the action sequences really ramped up and very graphic. The two leads were really crassly entertaining; never did the uber-machismo bother me, as it sometimes tends to (I’m looking at you Expendables). It was like a really unsophisticated version of Corbijn’s The American (complete with ridiculously attractive prostitute). In fact, considering The American was a very European film - itself an ironic concept - this was like an American version of The American - Irony overdrive.
The film was paced really well too; both the action and the character development (yes it did have a little) were nicely spread throughout so that there were no lulls.

What unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:

Certain plot holes that were a little unforgivable, e.g. when they explained that McKenna was able to make a connection with their next mark because this is his first job. Really, the son of one of the biggest names in hit-man organisation wouldn’t ring any alarms to a professional doing some background checks?

Performance of the film:
Ben Foster was really something. Still has that slightly psychotic look in his eyes that he had back in Six Feet Under, but he really impresses as a competent and charismatic action star, with his own unique edge. (He was also my best performance of 30 Days of Night)

Scene of the film:
Steve McKenna blasting his way out of a pretty dire situation and thus convincing me of both the character’s elite status in this film and of the young actor’s potential to be a great action star (he can actually even act)

Most outstanding or memorable feature:
Brutality of the action.

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