I usually wait until the final paragraph before finally telling you whether the film I am reviewing is actually good or not. It’s pretty much the number one trick of the trade. If you tell the reader in the first paragraph, why would they read the rest of it? This time, however, I can’t hold it back. The Mechanic is one of the best films released in 2011 so far, and the best movie of Jason Statham‘s career.
Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, the best hitman in the business. Arthur is convinced by the head (Tony Goldwyn) of the assassination corporation he works for that his mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland) is responsible for the deaths of five employees, and must be killed. After a touching scene between the two, Arthur does the job. Arthur bumps into Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster), and basically takes him in as a protege to save him from himself. Steve makes it clear that he is hellbent on revenge for his father’s death, and it isn’t long after that Arthur deduces Harry’s hit was a frame job. The only question left to answer is how many slow motion shots of empty bullet casings flying through the air will we see before the closing credits?
Unlike most Statham movies, The Mechanic is filled by actual human beings, with complex emotions and strained psyches. There are no easy answers to the questions you usually find in action films these days, because in this film, the filmmakers choose to leave them unasked. Once Harry realizes Arthur is going to kill him, does he accept his fate or is he hoping that Arthur will choose their friendship over whatever misguided loyalty he feels for the company? The same can be asked of Arthur’s relationship with Steve. Surely he knows that the young man will figure out who is responsible for his father’s death, so why would you teach a hazard to your health killing skills and give him a roof over his head?
I never thought I would say this, but Simon West has crafted a genuine fine film. West debuted with the guilty pleasure Con Air, but has been floundering ever since. With The Mechanic, West not only directs fantastic action scenes, but takes the time to show that the characters actually plan each hit meticulously. The final firefight between The Corporation and Statham/Foster is the best street set gunfight I have seen on screen since The Dark Knight, and I am sure West managed to pull it off with only a fraction of Knight‘s budget. I would also like to point out the great job by cinematographer Eric Schmidt filming on location around Louisiana. Due to tax credits that films get for shooting in the state, it seems like every other movie I watch has been shot around Louisiana. Schmidt actually manages to pull off a few interesting camera shots in Bayou Country, made all the more impressive by the fact that this is his biggest project to date.
I would be lying if I said I loved every minute of the film. As a matter of fact, it is the final minute that I have the biggest problem with. I am not going to spoil it for anyone, so there’s not a lot I can say here other than it appeared that the filmmakers were ready to give us what, in my opinion, would have been the greatest ending to a film in a long time, only to go the safe route. The ending doesn’t ruin it for me, it only bumped what would have been a 10 down to a 8.5 or so. That is still a very strong recommendation.