Cast: Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), Steve McKenna (Ben Foster), Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), Dean (Tony Goldwyn)
Director: Simon West
Theatrical release: 01/28/2011 DVD Date: 05/17/2011
Rating: R Running Time: 93 minutes
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Review: Jason Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, a "mechanic" -- a killer for hire that specializes in making it appear as if he victims died by accident or of natural causes -- who discovers that he was set up by his employer to kill his mentor and friend under false pretenses, and vows revenge in return.
Donald Sutherland plays Harry McKenna, a former mechanic, now wheelchair bound, who acts as Bishop's go-between with Dean (Tony Goldberg), a businessman who negotiates contract hits. When Bishop receives an assignment directly from Dean to kill Harry, he wants to meet him to understand why. Dean explains that Harry is over his head in debt and sold out the organization for millions of dollars, resulting in the deaths of five other mechanics. Bishop follows through, killing Harry, only to have Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster), go off on his own to avenge his father's murder. Bishop, who longs to buy a boat and retire, councils Steve to think rationally about how to plan and execute a murder, and sets about to train him in his methods. But after Bishop sees one of his supposedly dead colleagues, alive and well, he realizes he's been set up by Dean and devises a plan to get even.
Maybe my expectations here were set a little low -- I had seen the trailer for the film and anticipated it to be one nonstop series of action sequences with little story -- but I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Yes, there is a lot of action, most of it incredibly violent. But the transition scenes, where the plot of the film really takes place, are well written and paced and provide a seamless continuity to the storyline. Though one has to ask, why does Bishop take Steve McKenna under his wing? He's always been a loner, and the organization seems to have plenty of mechanics on staff, so what's Bishop's motivation for training him ... especially when he rarely follows instructions and seems fairly inept at the job? Of course, if he didn't, there would be no movie.
Jason Statham is perfectly cast in the lead here and Donald Sutherland, in a relatively brief appearance, is excellent as his mentor. I'm less enthusiastic about Ben Foster, who always seemed to be "performing" his role, and never seems to understand his character. Maybe that's intentional, but it contrasts so sharply with Statham's restrained performance that it's actually noticeable by comparison.
The Mechanic is first and foremost an action film, and most of the action sequences are well structured and exciting to watch. No doubt the cleverness with which some of the scenes play out helped keep my interest. The "twist" at the end is not unexpected, but is consistent with what preceded it so works in that context. Without giving anything away, I would have liked to have known a little more about how it was all arranged, if only as individual scenes inserted along the way. I'm guessing they might have been there originally -- and, indeed, there are a couple that hint at it -- but were possibly cut for either time or continuity reasons.
Bottom line here is I enjoyed The Mechanic, more than I thought I would. And that's always a nice surprise with a film.