Sometimes, remakes actually improve upon the original. “The Mechanic,” a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson flick of the same name, is a major improvement, but that’s deceptive and not really saying much; the original “The Mechanic” is a clunky, archaic film that plays terribly for modern audiences. The fact that director Simon West took the same story and made it coherent and entertaining is an achievement, and it turns out being about what you’d expect, which isn’t always a bad thing.
“The Mechanic” tells the timeless tale of a professional hitman who trains a young apprentice, teaching him how to cleverly kill and get away with it. Of course, the two eventually have to take out the evil organization that employs them, and of course, there is a twist you should see coming from the beginning. This time, action star Jason Statham plays the title character, and Ben Foster is his apprentice. Statham and Foster deliver good performances, and combined they are the film’s greatest strength. I’ve always enjoyed Statham as an action star, and I’m happy Foster is getting more roles, because he is fascinating to watch. Foster seems to harbor an endless well of anger and intensity, both of which suit his role here perfectly. Donald Sutherland also appears briefly as the guy who trained Statham, but he isn’t given much to do.
There is more to like about the movie than Statham and Foster, though. You’re going to get what you came for, which is lots of action, violence, and stuff blowing up real good. The way they go about killing targets is clever and often results in full-blown action scenes, such as one sequence in a skyscraper where they get caught in the act and have to shoot their way out. The violence is also pretty brutal, particularly on the job where Foster goes alone, basically taking off his training wheels. It’s all fast-paced and entertaining, and there isn’t much fat. There is a scene or two of them chasing women, but they don’t slow the movie down. The plot continues to move forward with typical action movie speed.
In fact, there isn’t much “The Mechanic” does wrong. It pretty much nails what it sets out to do; it just doesn’t set its aim very high. Yes, it’s very formulaic, and it lacks the depth and weight of something like “The Town,” but it never tries to be anything more than a dumb action movie. It is fast-food formula served up on a bun. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, you should leave satisfied.
3 out of 5 stars
Chris Scott and I review “The Mechanic,” “Red,” and “The American” on the latest episode of Movie Dudes.