The Review: You might not thank me for reminding you of the Expendables, but I’m going to do it anyway. One thing was immediately noticeable in terms of the cast – there was a massive array of talent from ten, twenty and thirty years ago, but the only person really working at the same level from the current era of movie stars was Jason Statham. After coming to prominence in Guy Ritchie movies, Statham has become the closest thing we have to an A-list action star in the 21st century. The Transporter and Crank movies appeal to particular audiences, happy to accept The Stath knowing his limits on the acting front but getting by on his natural rough charisma and undoubted ability to knock out solid action scenes time after time.
The franchise model for the older action star required one series, such as a Rocky or a Die Hard, to make your name with, then a series of forgettable but often enjoyable lesser movies where you can get your lead to play the same role with a different name. Arthur Bishop doesn’t quite hold a candle to Chev Chelios or Lee Christmas, but it’s strange enough in context that it’s all Arthur and his date from a bar have to talk about (once they’ve had a highly over-stylised sex scene just after meeting, of course). But it’s not random sex scenes or unusual names that get Statham’s fans turning out time after time, it’s the generally solid quality of the action scenes that keep people coming back. And I’m pleased to report that the action here, while not quite being at Crank levels of insanity or intensity, are at least better than the back end of the Transporter series.
But before that, of course, there’s the relative necessity of plot to navigate. Thankfully, to make things easier, this is a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson / Michael Winner collaboration, which was famed for its first quarter of an hour being entirely dialogue free. You might think that’s why it’s been selected as ideal remake material for The Stath, but that would be a little unfair, his gravelly stoicism not the stuff of awards but it’s still enough to make a sure foundation for the story to be built on. What this does have in the opening stretch instead is Donald Sutherland, popping up as one of the heads of the firm that keeps Bishop in business – when you see that the other head is Tony Goldwyn, a.k.a. smarmy bad guy from Ghost, there’s no prizes for guessing who’s good and who’s bad. Ben Foster takes the role filled by Jan-Michael Vincent in the original, here playing Sutherland’s son and the trainee mechanic who Bishop reluctantly takes under his wing.
This isn’t a film packed with staggering plot twists or intricate character drama, although it is well acted in comparison to its peers and it has the decency to throw us a variation on the ending of the original. But The Mechanic is like Statham himself; solid, undemanding, reliable and with enough satisfying moments to justify its presence. The majority of the action is in the last third and the set pieces are all well constructed. You’re going to struggle to remember too much about it a week after seeing it, but while you’re in front of it it does the job intended with as little fuss as possible. Director Simon West gave us Con Air over a decade ago, and nothing as memorable since – if he let himself loose a little more, there’s the potential for that level of fun next time around, but for now it’s just another day at the office for The Stath.
Why see it at the cinema: The action, the best and most prominent of which is in the last third of the movie, is exactly what popcorn and Saturday nights were designed for.
The Score: 7/10