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Time Out New York Project: Issue #798, January 27-February 2, 2011
Dir. Simon West. 2011. R. 92mins. Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland.
Speed is on this Mechanic’s mind. The remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson–Jan-Michael Vincent cult item moves like a mofo through its opening action sequence, in which rugged hitman Arthur Bishop (Statham) takes down a target with they’ll-never-know-I-was-here ease. It’s a pleasure to watch the granite-faced action star do his own stunts, particularly a death-defying leap from a bridge. Yet everything feels hurried. You can’t help but mourn the loss of the original film’s curtain-raiser, a leisurely paced stalk-and-kill that’s as much about existential angst as it is about slow-burn tension. Here, the badasses have to be in constant, monotonous motion. Depth of character is traded for bloody broad strokes.
And what bloodiness! The film more than earns its hard R, especially when Bishop’s sullen protégé, Steve McKenna (Foster, bringing the committed seethe and simmer), enters the picture. He’s the ne’er-do-well son of Bishop’s old friend and, as fate would have it, most recent victim (Sutherland). The remorseful hit man keeps the kid in the dark about his involvement, all while training him to be a lean, mean killing machine. Until he discovers the horrible truth, Steve works out his dead-daddy frustrations by beating carjackers to a pulp, riddling adversaries with bullets and, in the film’s queasiest scene, repeatedly stabbing a hulking gay assassin with a fire poker. Director Simon West (Con Air) excels at meaninglessly slick exploitation. Yet he sticks so closely to the first Mechanic’s narrative template — even ineffectually redoing its most shocking double-cross — that the deficiencies stick out like the gooey digital brains that spritz from certain characters’ heads.—Keith Uhlich
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