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The Mechanic

TedFlicks Rating: ★★★☆☆

$8.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.50


“BURN NOTICE” LESS THE WIT

 “The Mechanic,” the latest from helmer Simon West, who has a long history of action films, is a fabulously choreographed, forgettable, shoot-em-up fantasy that plays like a feature film version of the cable TV show, “Burn Notice,” without the latter’s humor or wit.

 Jason Statham is Arthur Bishop, a high-end hit man who is assigned to take out his mentor, handler (and likely only friend) Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland).  As cold and calculating as the come, Bishop has some misgivings about the assignment.  He does it, nonetheless, making it look like a carjacking gone bad.  Bishop’s specialty is clean, untraceable hits.  His motto is Amat Victoria Curam (Latin for “Victory loves preparation.”)  Pic’s exposition is handled largely by Statham’s voice overs in a way that reminds one of Jeffrey Donovan’s wry observations in “Burn Notice.”  Unfortunately, Statham’s lines are pure exposition. 

Enter McKenna’s estranged son Steve (Ben Foster), who wants to avenge dad’s murder.  Reluctantly, Bishop takes the impulsive lad under his wing, teaches him the ropes — in only a matter of weeks, no less — and sends him on his first assignment:  taking out a bad guy named Burke (Jeff Chase) who has a weakness for Chihuahuas and young men.  Steve manages to finish the job despite violating every one of Bishops instructions and nearly getting killed.  This marks the still-birth of a buddy flick.  One of pic’s few moments of comic relief is when Steve learns the reason Bishop has had him adopt a Chihuahua.  Another has to do with a young girl’s hand stuffed into a running garbage disposal in a spur of the moment blackmail — it turns out to be a steak that’s spurting all the blood.  Pic boasts one good laugh line:  A bad guy (Tony Goldwyn as Dean) barks at Bishop, “I’m gonna put a price on your head that’s so big that when you look in the mirror your reflection is gonna wanna shoot you!”  Heaven help the reflection.

Clues in “The Mechanic” are clearly apparent from the screenplay and the lensing.  Pic’s only surprises occur when it takes total leave of plausibility.  Steve’s hits get messier as pic soldiers on.  Bishop also seems to have lost his touch for neatness.  Aud’s principal questions are these:  Will Bishop find out who put out the hit on McKenna?  Will Steve learn that Bishop was his dad’s hit man?  And what would Steve do about it if he found out?

Pic’s distance from the plausible can be summed up by the extraordinarily timely intervention of events outside the control of Bishop and Steve.  They include a city bus that shows up just in time to be hijacked in the penultimate reel, a garbage truck that mysteriously appears in time for Bishop to nail the guy who ordered the hit on McKenna in his car, getaway cars that materialize without warning, and the fact that in large, upscale urban areas the cops don’t show up until the shooting has stopped.  When Steve and Bishop get messy, they make enough noise to make Chicago or New Orleans, where much action is set, sound like the battle for Fallujah.

Pic does, however, boast a few nice although slightly clichéd touches.  Bishop is an audiophile who prepares himself mentally for jobs by playing vinyl Schubert recordings on a belt-drive turntable through a vacuum tube amplifier.  He also works on an early 1960s Jaguar E-Type 2+2 in his garage.  Your critic sincerely hopes that pic’s estimated $40 million budget included money for a replica. 

Direction (Simon West) and editing (by T.G. Herrington and Todd E. Miller) are straightforward leaving only the loose ends mentioned above.  Scribes Richard Wenk (screenplay), Lewis John Carlino and (screenplay) (story), turned in a pedestrian product, but special effects, good lensing (Eric Schmidt) and the aforementioned fabulous choreography largely compensate.  Sound recording is excellent.  There is virtually no inaudible dialogue.  Performances, with the exception of Sutherland’s, are largely wooden, but they neither add nor detract much from this genre of film. 

“The Mechanic,” which is rated R for violence and language, runs 92 minutes.  It looks more like a made-for-cable flick than a feature, except for the production values, which are high indeed.  Teenage boys should love it.

—30—

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The Mechanic on Netflix
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