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A killer of a thriller
on 12 March 2007
The Mechanic aka Killer of Killers (the title was changed to boost business with people who might have mistaken the original title for a car chase movie) is surprisingly good and, unusually for Michael Winner, also surprisingly well directed. A one-time Cliff Robertson vehicle (which at least explains the pipe Charles Bronson smokes throughout the film) and a clear influence on the Wachowski Brothers later script for Assassins, it sees Charles Bronson as the mob's most assured and ingenious hitman for some reason taking on an apprentice, attracted perhaps by his sociopathic indifference to death. The first half of the film is so sharp that it's a shame the rest of the movie starts down a more conventional road, but the action is well-handled, with a couple of way above average stunts involving a crashing motorbike and, later on, a car pushed off a mountain road that is more comprehensively trashed on the way down than you've ever seen in a film before or since: this one doesn't need to go up in a fireball to convince it's occupant isn't walking away.
Unfortunately the sorcerer's pathological apprentice is played by terminally smug Jan Michael Vincent (the man who sued the paramedics who saved his life after a drunken crash for not managing to do so without damaging his vocal cords): ideal casting, perhaps, but he's definitely a below-par Dennis Quaid act as an actor who seems to think he's good looking enough not to have to at least try to act. Equally unfortunately it also features the inevitable Jill Ireland (the star's wife and director's former girlfriend: that must have made for some interesting conversations on the set), albeit only for one scene, and for once there's a rather clever and perfectly valid reason for her bad acting. It doesn't make her big scene any less painful to watch but at least it stops it from doing any real damage to the film. If at times it feels like a more ambitious film may have been lost in rewrites, there's still a pleasingly nasty ending and any film where the first 15 minutes are played without dialogue gets extra points in my book.
Euro Video's German Blu-ray release has no extras but has a decent widescreen transfer that accurately reflects the original look of the film with English or German soundtrack options, but Twilight Time's limited edition region-free US Blu-ray goes better with an audio commentary by cinematographer Richard H. Kline, isolated score, trailer and booklet