The Mechanic

It’s still January.  2011 has only just begun.  The beginning of a new year brings with it many “firsts”.  The first snowfall of the year (which we don’t get here in South Florida, but there are many people North of us who can’t wait to permanently put their snow shovels away), first day back at school and so on.  As new movies are released one movie gets the distinction of being the first genre of its kind to come out.  “The Green Hornet” was the first superhero movie of the year.  “No Strings Attached” was the first romantic comedy of the year.  Now, “The Mechanic” is the first action movie of the year.  Since it is the first, you could call it, the best action movie of 2011.  By the same token you can also call it the worst action movie of 2011.  By the time December rolls around there is a very good chance “The Mechanic”, which is a re-imagining of the Charles Bronson movie of the same name, will be known as the latter of the two.

Jason Statham stars as Arthur Bishop.  He is a Mechanic which is a euphemism for hit man.  “A mechanic fixes things,” as he explains it.  He takes on an apprentice, Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) who is the son of Bishop’s old mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland).  Harry was recently assassinated and Bishop feels he owes it to his old teacher to teach his son the rope of being a top notch assassin, even though Steve is extremely undisciplined.  The two takes on a variable of assignments as Steve goes through his training until they ultimately go after the ones who were behind the hit on Harry.

Jason Statham has undeniably become the action star of the 21st Century.  With movies such as the “Crank” series and “The Transporter” and Sylvester Stallone made sure he got him for his who’s who of action stars movie “The Expendables” this past summer.  This movie would probably be a whole lot worse without him; but, even with his presence it is a substandard action flick.  To start there really is nothing that is moving the plot along through the whole movie.  The movie is more than ¾ of the way through before there is a clear path for our protagonists.  Before that the movie just moves from small event to small event. 

The action sequences are not even that interesting and when we do get one director Simon West relies on old tricks like slow motion shots that doesn’t emphasize that much and also quick camera movements with rapid editing and the typical action music thrown in.  Even the climatic scene in the end was nothing special.  Everything comes pretty easily to our “anti-heroes”.  There are also no surprises.  Everything is so easy to predict that almost any member of the audience, who has seen an action movie before, could probably have written the screenplay.  Some screenwriting classes teach that if you have to resort to narration it is a sign of a weak screenplay.  There are exceptions to this rule (“The Shawshank Redemption”), but if you have to have your main character give some narration at the beginning of the movie to explain things to the audience, only to never hear from him again, it fulfills the prime example of this rule.  “The Mechanic” is guilty of this crime.

It’s still January.  The month movie studios typically release not their highest quality of product.  At the same time they have to release a certain amount of movies every year to make their stockholders happy.  They have to put some sort of product out in the first quarter.  Unfortunately that product usually turns out to be something like “The Mechanic”.  There are still 100 more months of new movies to look forward to.  A good action movie is bound to be in there somewhere.  “The Mechanic” is rated R for strong violence, language, nudity and strong sexual content.