There’s nothing new about Simon West’s The Mechanic. The 2011 picture is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, which starred Charles Bronson and was directed by Michael Winner. This one puts Jason Statham in the Bronson role and features a screenplay by Lewis John Carlino and Richard Wenk.
Despite its inherent lack of novelty, The Mechanic is admirable. It gets to the point, which seems to reflect the proficiency of its lead character and his non-association with other things. There are no attempts to prod the vegetation, no emotional attachments. Some minor human elements play at the periphery, but barely.
Statham is Arthur, probably. He’s a “mechanic,” which is a cool way to say he’s a hitman. He works through a chain of command and completes assignments with incredible efficiency. One day, he’s tasked to kill his friend and mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland) at the behest of his employer Dean (Tony Goldwyn).
There is a catch, of course, and Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) shows up after his father’s death. He wants to learn Arthur’s trade, so the mechanic takes him on. There are other jobs. Some go well, some don’t. Soon, things come full circle and Steve learns the truth about his father’s executioner.
Statham’s character is carved out rather well. West showcases Arthur’s lifestyle of affluence. The mechanic lives in the middle of nowhere, really likes vinyl, sees a high-end prostitute (Mini Andén), works on a 1966 Jaguar E-Type. Human connections, apart from Harry, are inopportune.
But even his connection to Harry is for sale, especially when Arthur is made to believe that his compatriot is a conspirator. This suggests certain bloodlessness, something that is drawn into sharper concentration when Steve enters the picture.
Steve is nearly the opposite of Arthur, though they meet at the same points. He has hasty, hard sex with someone at a bar who admires his bruises and wants some of her own. His first mission is accomplished but slovenly. He’s impetuous and broken and can barely hide the way his personality frays. He has a lot to learn.
Steve’s difficulties come from not living up to his father, whatever that means. There’s a lot of uncertainty behind the men of The Mechanic, behind what drives them. Steve is the closest thing to a psychologically evident human, but even he hides behind a wall of retribution, impulsivity and booze.
The missions are interesting. Steve’s first gig has him play as the love interest to another mechanic, a gig that involves three weeks and a chihuahua. The plan is straightforward enough, but the apprentice has to have it his way and manages to throw the doors open for an apartment-blasting brawl.
Another mission involves the dispatching of a cult leader (John McConnell), whose drug habit theoretically provides the inroad to death. Unfortunately, there’s a catch and the stocky sinner is invited on another path to hell.
The Mechanic works the angles well and sheds any superfluous skin. Its skill is its own reward and the microscopic emotional resonance lands because there’s no heavy lifting required. The depth is implied in Steve’s difficulty with the work, with Arthur’s lack of difficulty with the work, with the movie’s almost shifty knack for playing it cool in all circumstances.