Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Simon West’s “The Mechanic” thrills

By Brian Canova

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themechanicmovie.com

In Simon West’s high-impact remake of the 1972 film “The Mechanic,” Jason Statham (“The Transporter,” “Crank”) reprises the role of Arthur Bishop, a mechanistic hit man once played by Charles Bronson. After a hit is carried out on his wheelchair-bound, long-time mentor, Harry McKenna, played by Donald Sutherland (“Dirty Dozen,” “M*A*S*H”), Bishop takes on a protégé of his own, Harry’s son, Steve McKenna.

McKenna, played by Ben Foster (“Alpha Dog,” “X-Men 3”), is Bishop’s antithesis. Emotionally volatile, fatalistic and an egomaniac with everything to prove, Bishop uncharacteristically takes it upon himself to coach McKenna in the art of the kill and the unique mindset that his profession demands.

Using an online directory of classified ads resembling Craigslist, Bishop receives his assignments in encrypted postings. He then carries them out quickly on designated targets ranging from arms dealers to pedophilic hit man and messianic cult leaders.

Rivaling Bishop, McKenna’s sarcastic wit and unresolved anger fuel his training as he swigs whiskey, rips cigarettes, and studies actuary manuals to align his kills with what insurance agents look for when investigating their clients’ deaths. Take autoerotic asphyxiation as one example. McKenna struggles with this concept, however, choosing brutal bloodbaths over safer, more cunning and quiet chemical assassinations. The kills are graphically depicted throughout the movie and may be difficult for some to stomach, but others will find it a proper element in the tried-and-true formula of Statham’s work.

McKenna finds the rush he’s looking for in this new craft, an outlet for the anger that bounced him between three high schools and had his college acceptance revoked. Always a disappointment to his father, McKenna finds redemption while seeking out vengeance on the ultimate target – the man who ordered his father’s hit.

In the end, neither Bishop nor McKenna can completely suppress their emotions. Bishop hunts down the man who deceived him into carrying out an unwarranted hit on a close personal friend, and McKenna fails to shake off his hunger for brutal and ruthless vengeance. “Amat vitoria curam,” or, “victory loves preparation,” is the inscription on the elder McKenna’s pistol, serving as a recurring theme throughout the film. His son, however, is never able to master  this philosophy in lieu of his impulsive and impassioned spontaneity, which ultimately spells his demise. “Vengeance is the mission,” he says to Bishop.     

“There is no peace,” Bishop tells himself. Emotionally tortured but conditioned not to feel, Bishop doesn’t think like other people do, and this is what enables him to excel in his profession. Juxtaposing his detached relationship with Sara (Mini Anderson), the classical music he plays on vinyl at his house, the carefully restored car in his garage, and his twisted ethical code, Bishop is built with an unsettling precision reminiscent of Christian Bale’s portrayal in “American Psycho.” Bishop is homesick for a place he’s never been, an old man in a rocking chair tells him in the film’s weak attempt at tapping into something deeper.

Don’t expect anything deep or profound from “The Mechanic.” The film fiddles with the idea of spite and the comfort vengeance can bring, but answers these musings with only an explosive exploration of the action-packed form it takes in Hollywood. If you’re searching for wisdom in Statham’s cold, sharp one-liners, you’re looking in the wrong place. Nonetheless, what this film lacks in depth it more than makes up for in its fast-moving plot and eye-opening action sequences. Without the mental taxation of more complicated and ambitious films, expect to sit back with ease and be well entertained with this updated thriller.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]

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