Action films are weird. What used to be the summer blockbusters of yore are now reduced to a off-season release dates. In the mid 1990’s The Mechanic would have starred Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and been a big summer action film. The 2011 version hit theaters in January, and did reasonable business for what it is –around $30 domestic, or less than what Pirates 4 did on its opening day. Though by no means a great film, the Jason Statham-starrer is relatively entertaining, and doesn’t mess around. Statham stars as a hitman who takes on an assistant (Ben Foster), and comes to realize the people he’s working for (headed up by Tony Goldwyn) are not above board. Check out our review of the Blu-ray of The Mechanic after the jump.
The film starts with Arthur (Statham) killing someone invisibly. This is good because every other operation is going to not go according to plan, so it’s smart to show his skills when he’s at the top of his game. He’s then asked to kill his only friend Harry (Donald Sutherland), who takes his death like a champ. But Arthur feels bad, and anonymous sex only helps so much. So he trains Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) to become a hitman.
Arthur keeps his secret from Steve, but the truth eventually reveals itself. The two go on missions, but Arthur also finds out that the head of operations Dean (Tony Goldwyn) played him for a fool, and forced him to take out Harry to cover for his own misdeeds. This then leads to a strong third act where Arthur and Steve go against Dean, but Steve knows that Arthur killed his father, so you don’t know when that’s also going to come to a head.
The film is competently put together, it’s R rated, there’s nudity and it’s only 93 minutes, which makes it a modest winner from the get-go. Too many films are bloated, and this plays as a real movie, while having a reasonably interesting story. What is most interesting about the movie is the ending, as the film tries to have it both ways. We know Statham is a cold blooded killer, but he’s also the hero of the piece. We know that Ben Foster should have the right to revenge – his father was killed for the wrong reasons by Statham – but Foster’s character is constantly smoking, and in 21st century cinema, smoking all the time makes you a bad person. All of things make the conclusion fascinating because the film cannot satisfy the audience’s desires in total. It tries to, though.
Eh. I wish there was a greater art or chemistry to recommend about the film, though I think Ben Foster has cut an interesting career out of playing weirdos and fuck ups. To that end he makes a great partner for Statham, who hits his one note right. But Foster brings an energy to the film that’s probably the most recommendable thing about the film. Simon West’s direction is competent, but uneventful. That said, considering the genre, I was pleasantly surprised at his work. It’s a modest pleasure film.
Sony Picture’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The transfer is perfect, as to be expected with a film this new. The film comes with a making of (8 min.) that talks mostly to the film’s stunts, and a handful of useless deleted scenes (11 min.) that mostly extend scenes already in the film.