A remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film, The Mechanic stars Jason Statham as an elite assassin who, after being assigned to kill his mentor, suddenly finds himself facing the reality of who he really works for – all the while taking on his mentor's son as an apprentice hit man.
What we thought
At first glance, The Mechanic seems to be exactly the kind of film that Jason Statham made his name on: a high octane action film, filled to the gills with insane stunt work, a revenge-driven plot and a boatload of enemies for “The Stath” to dispatch with as violently as possible. However, to its detriment or, depending on your own sensibilities, to its benefit, the film is much leaner and meaner than the wonderful, over-the-top lunacy of something like Crank 2.
Statham is probably the absolute best non-Asian action star since the heydays of Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger and – going a bit further back but more pertinent in this case – Charles Bronson. He probably won't follow Bruce Willis into the realms of proper acting in movies that are about more than skull-crushing violence and massive explosions but action stars don't come more charismatic and more oddly likeable than Jason Statham. And that he always sticks to his gruff Britishness, no matter the locale of the film, only makes him all the more endearing.
More than anything else, though – more even than his appearances in the absolute worst of Guy Ritchie's later films – The Mechanic is going to go down as the film that puts Statham's likeability most to the test. A large part of what has always made Statham such a great screen presence is his sense of humour. This is a guy who never fails to provide a good laugh even as he kicks in the head of whichever unfortunate baddie happens to be on screen with him at the same time. Sometimes the laughs come through actual wit but, more often and no less impressively, they come through his willingness to both poke fun at himself and to appear in films that are so far off the reservation that it's impossible not to laugh your ass of at them. Crank 2 is definitely the key text here. Remember that? A bunch of good for nothing gangsters stole Jason Statham's heart – literally! - and he will stop at nothing to get it back! Now that, right there, is vintage Statham.
In The Mechanic, however, there is none of that tasteless but very funny extreme mindlessness. Statham plays an unsympathetic hit man whose only real redeeming quality is that his enemies are even worse. There is no glint in the eyes here, no tongue placed firmly in cheek. This is Jason Statham leaving most of his swagger behind and going for the simple, nuts and bolts of a violent man looking for revenge.
The result isn't bad, mind you. It's a slimmed-down, gritty revenge thriller with exactly the sort of twists and turns you would expect from this sort of film. It's solidly directed, the script is bare but effective and the action comes fast and furious. And Statham is perfectly adequate in the lead role. It's just that when forced to choose between a Jason Statham action movie and an action movie that happens to star Jason Statham, I would go for the former every time.