Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
There are a lot of movies these days that are retreads, remakes, or sequels. All this do-over filmmaking seems to point to loss of talent, lack of imagination, or just plain laziness. It’s still unthinkable for someone to whip up a sequel to Casablanca or a remake of Citizen Kane. And many of these do-overs, such as the remakes of The Wicker Man and War of the Worlds, are egregiously dismal.
On the other side of this trend, along come the Coen brothers with their revisionist True Grit, which is a wonderful piece of filmmaking, put a western back at the top of the box office charts, and managed to snag ten Oscar nominations.
So while watching the current hit-man magnum opus The Mechanic, I began making mental notes as to what’s wrong with it, and how it had to have been better in the 1972 original. But I had never seen the first film, so I watched it afterward. It was, as expected of something from the seventies, very dated looking. Considering there was no CGI then, some of the action scenes were very well executed…you should pardon the expression. Charles Bronson was fine in the title role, and was still two years away from his career-defining character in Death Wish, but Jan-Michael Vincent in the second lead proved just how bad an actor he can be. He’s had some really good moments on the screen, such as in the surfing epic Big Wednesday, but his performance in The Mechanic was not up to that standard.
So is the new version of The Mechanic as ho-hum as I first thought? Probably not, even though I still wouldn’t classify it as a really good film. It’s still imbued with the same flaws of the original. But where the remake has improved the story is through filmmaking technology. The action scenes, stunts, and shootouts are, by comparison, really spectacular. The first version was directed by Michael Winner, who, despite having a long career, really wasn’t a very good director. Simon West, of Con Air and Tomb Raider fame, who knows his way around the action genre, helms the new one. Starring in the Bronson, Vincent, and Keenan Wynn roles, we now have Jason Statham, Ben Foster, and Donald Sutherland, giving much better performances.
The story is basically the same: a big-ticket hit man takes an assignment, which puts him in contact with the victim’s son. The son wants to continue in the family tradition of being in the biz, so the hit man agrees to take him on as an apprentice. You know where this is all going from the first frame, so there are no real surprises. But the style of The Mechanic is very acceptable, especially from a contemporary standpoint: action-packed, decent performances, fast-paced. But no matter how you slice it, it’s still not a particularly satisfying film. And neither was the original. It’s the textbook answer for people who always say, “why don’t they remake bad films instead of good ones.” And that answer is “you still need something good to start with.”
The R-rated, very violent The Mechanic, is now playing at most locations around the area.