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"Stupid to kill someone when you have a motive. Might as well paint a bulls eye on your back."
on 24 April 2012
1972's Charles Bronson thriller The Mechanic aka Killer of Killers, was that extreme rarity, a terrific Michael Winner movie, and one that tapped into the paranoid and morally skewed mood of its day with its tale of a mob hitman taking on an equally sociopathic apprentice (Jan-Michael Vincent) who wants to take his crown as the best in the business. Simon West's 2011 remake shares the same original title, The Mechanic, but despite original screenwriter Lewis John Carlino sharing a co-writing credit and being produced by the sons of the original's co-producers only shares its basic premise and part of its nihilistic ending. This time Jason Statham is the top hitman working for a faceless corporation that may or may not be government-related who finds himself taking best friend Donald Sutherland's screwed-up son Ben Foster under his wing and trying to teach him the tricks of his trade, with increasingly messy results. This time the tension is not the unspoken deadly competitiveness between the two killers but whether Foster will find out just why Statham's guilt has driven him to take on such a hopeless case who screws up every assignment by not paying attention to any of his advice and who is painting a target on his back with every spectacular near failure.
Unfortunately, while the motive for betrayal may look stronger on paper, on screen it plays off more routine because there's never a hint that these two may be equally matched, with the younger man's powers growing as the elder's wane. Although the competitive element is all but dropped in favour of a standard conspiracy subplot so obvious it just makes Statham look gullible, it's a foregone conclusion who is going to be the winner here, leaving it more dependent on the amped up action scenes. Sadly these never have quite enough impact because, although Statham did most of his own stunt work, between the camerawork keeping the shots very tight and the editing threatening to go into overdrive at times, it doesn't show that much. Statham's no Bronson but he's more than adequate in a role that never strays from his comfort zone (although there are hints of ruthlessness with innocent bystanders, he only hurts people who deserve it), Foster gives his part more than it deserves and Sutherland provides good old school professionalism in his brief role, but it never rises above a professionally put together formulaic timewaster. And while producers Millennium films must be getting great tax breaks in Louisiana with this and Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, someone really should tell them that it doubles for South America in the opening scenes about as convincingly as Milton Keynes doubled for Metropolis in Superman IV.
Momentum's Blu-ray only boasts an average transfer, with some digital (as opposed to film) grain apparent in some shots and not much more detail than you'd expect on DVD, but can generally be found at a cheap enough price. Extras are fairly perfunctory: a few deleted and alternate scenes, spoiler-heavy trailer and a seven-minute puff piece featurette on the stunts.