USA, 2011: The Mechanic
Jason Statham stars as a methodical assassin who reluctantly accepts his best friendís son as an apprentice.
In this update of the Charles Bronson classic, director Simon West remakes the film in his own vision, modernizing the story, but toning down the themes of the 1972 version. The direction is solid, but a bit genre typical of other spy and political thrillers. In an age filled with reboots and sequels, some originality is desperately short in supply. Still, the production design is solid, and the photography is well shot and edited, for the most part. The soundtrack is rather eclectic, the music ranging from funk to jazz to classical, but all in pretty good taste. Everything comes together in a pretty hip way, but it feels like it definitely lacks the real artistic impact of the original film.
Having not seen the source material, I canít say how accurate or faithful this remake is, but it seems like West was caught trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The story is pretty aimless for the first half of the film, and while itís nice to see filmmakers spending time on character development for a change, it shouldnít come at the expense of an intriguing story. It also seems like the writers went out of their way to make sure our leads came off as the good guys, removing the moral ambiguity that comes with the territory of killing for money. That said, both Statham and Ben Foster deliver very strong performances with the material. In particular, it seems like this could be a starting point for Foster to make his name as a new action hero for the next decade, taking the reins from the old hands of Statham and the rest of the Expendables crew.
Even with the higher aspirations that West may have had for his work, this is an action film, first and foremost, and he makes sure that we never forget it. While some of the fights are typical Bourne-style fair with lots of movement and shaky camera work, the longer sequences clearly had a great deal of thought put into them. There are two particular threshold fights that are incredibly well choreographed and performed, embracing the bloody brutal aesthetic with no apologies. And while some of the blood effects look a little unbelievable in the shoot outs, these scenes are all handled and shot very well. Lastly, West wisely saves the biggest stunts for the end, going all out with massive explosions and pulse-pounding action. Itís what really makes the movie worth watching, with the strong acting and characters just a bonus. While not anything particularly new or innovative, The Mechanic is a worthy addition to the genre, and even if it doesnít live up to the original, makes for a good flick for the new year.
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