Directed by: Simon West
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland
Rated: R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.
“The Mechanic” is a perfect example of a very specific kind of action movie. It’s grim, detached, and full of well-planned violence. This is a movie which delights in making you flinch as bones crunch and the CGI-blood spatters fly. If you like that sort of thing, you will like it. If you don’t, you won’t.
Our protagonist is Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), a “mechanic” for a large, bureaucratic firm that hires out its employees for all kinds of illicit work. Bishop is one of their best mechanics — as his mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland) comments, he doesn’t see people like the rest of us. He is a merciless contract killer, able to get to anyone and do away with them in a variety of ways: so that it looks like an accident, or sends a statement, or whatever the client wants. He maintains utter clinical detachment and has a perfected precision to him that rivals his perfectly-machined tools.
After Harry murdered, Bishop winds up taking his late mentor’s delinquent son Steve (Ben Foster) under his wing, training the fellow to be a mechanic himself. Steve couldn’t be more different from Bishop — he’s angry, a drunk, and full of lust for vengeance against his father’s killers. Steve’s training is occasionally cringe-worthy out of embarrassment rather than gore, as he lets his emotions get the better of him and as a result, messes up jobs.
Eventually he shapes up enough that he and Bishop make a pretty good team. When they get a lead on who exactly was behind Harry’s killing, they set out to take them down. The climactic sequence of their quest is a thing of beauty involving perfect timing, multiple large vehicles, and improbably powerful automatic weapons. Like most of the film, it has all the subtlety of a crowbar to the face.
There’s not much to say about the acting, since all the characters are very one-note. Bishop is clinical and detached or angry-but-barely-showing-it. Steve is angry or drunk or detached in that sullen way usually seen in teenagers. The action scenes are brutal but very well-choreographed. There’s even a horrifying scene involving a garbage disposal that is cleverly handled so that we don’t have to hate any more than we already do.
The pacing and plotting are pretty solid until the end, when it sinks into predictability and cliche. It’s like random pages from the end of other assassin movies got shuffled together and refilmed because the writers weren’t sure how to end it. Rather than going out on a strong, grim note, it sort of fizzles through several false endings.
If this film had any spark of hope or connection in it, it would be the setup for a series starring Steve and Bishop. This is not a buddy film, though. This is a film where caring about someone means you kill them quickly. If you like grim, vengeful action movies, “The Mechanic” is exactly what you’re looking for. If you like your action movies with some comedic relief and a light touch, go elsewhere. This is a film soaked in nihilism and wrapped in a bloody shop rag.