The Mechanic has the right tone for an action movie. The characters take it all seriously, but the story just goes wildly over the top for the sake of creating awesome set pieces. It’s not a joke, but it has a sense of humor about what we expect to see in genre movies.
The mechanic is Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham). He specializes in clean kills that look like accidents, everything from drowning to autoerotic asphyxiation. He checks in for assignments by responding to encrypted ads on Kansas Klassifieds (I guess Craig doesn’t get royalties for his list this time.) Only one day the target is his old pal Harry (Donald Sutherland). He even check with his boss Dean (Tony Goldwyn) who explains how corrupt Harry has gotten, and since it’s Tony Goldwyn, you kind of want Arthur to be a little more suspicious.
Anyway, Harry’s son Steven (Ben Foster) wants to learn Arthur’s skills so he can get revenge for his father (oh, if only he knew the whole ironic story.) It becomes a gay The Professional which is fantastic. You’ve all heard the rumors that The Transporter is gay. How progressive to do the mentor/protégé hitman story with men. Maybe in the sequel they’ll kiss. Yeah, Arthur has a lady he has sweaty sex with, but we’re taking baby steps for the equality movement. One of the targets is a gay pedophile, so Steven has to seduce him. That might be more homophobic than supportive but at least gay characters are kicking ass.
For an overdone generic setup like the professional killer, The Mechanic really shows some skills we haven’t seen before. A swimming pool hit? Awesome. Harry’s attempted escape in a wheelchair is really suspenseful. The strangulation is not original but it’s efficient and the payoff is that the most mundane cover story can be the best.
The action doesn’t really pick up until Steven starts messing up, because when Arthur’s on his game nothing ever goes wrong. But with Steven, fight break out and bullets get fired. This movie tears through every rod, pole, window or seat on a bus, every pipe or scaffolding in the walls, every appliance in a house. Arthur throws dudes off buildings (and you see the splat) or in front of cars. You know the cliché where someone breaks a bottle in a fight? Steven uses a whole six pack! They almost maim innocent victims but aren’t quite awesome enough to go that far. I guess I’ll have to wait for Crank III for that.
Haters may pick apart the logic of it all, but I think The Mechanic celebrates the lunacy of the action fantasy. When Dean threatens to put out so many expensive contracts on Arthur that his own reflection will want to shoot him in the face, I think Goldwyn knows he’s just trying to be the most evil suit out of the 1000s of evil suits in this kind of movie. That’s wonderful bravado. There are more “realistic” action movies (as if Jason Bourne isn’t fantasy but that’s the pretense anyway) and they’re great. This is one of the other kind and I’m so glad it exists.