Days before I checked out this new version of ‘The Mechanic’ I revisited the original Charles Bronson semi-classic just to have some sort of basis while watching the new film. Comparing the two movies is kind of interesting because director Simon West and his team have kept some elements, tossed away others and in my opinion it was almost a perfect combination of old and new… until the end. Now the ending of this version of ‘The Mechanic’ didn’t completely ruin the movie but it is the one part of the movie that actually causes you to stop and think a little, something that wasn’t necessary throughout this movie, so stopping and thinking is not a good thing, nor is it really recommended in relation to this movie.
I’m not going to actually ‘review’ this movie, just know that I enjoyed it for what it was, but instead I’m going to spend some time comparing the old and the new and such I’m going to be SPOILING stuff left and right so if you haven’t seen either movie and you want to be surprised then don’t bother reading. If you’ve seen the original then most of the major plot points are the same.
This time around Jason Statham assumes the role of Arthur Bishop and believe me when I tell you that Mr. Statham doesn’t do anything in this movie that you haven’t seen him do at least forty times already. They could’ve called him Frank Martin or Chev Chelios and we wouldn’t have noticed any kind of change from those other characters… but he does do what he does well. The differences from Statham’s character today and Charles Bronson from back in the day is that Bronson’s Bishop is much more nuanced. That Arthur Bishop has issues, panic attacks, he’s lonely and miserable. Today’s Arthur Bishop is just fine. This Arthur Bishop has sex with prostitutes because sex feels good, the old Arthur Bishop had sex with prostitutes as a substitute for a real relationship with a real person.
Our other main character is Steve McKenna. The old Steve, as played by Jan Michael Vincent, was a hedonistic jerk plain and simple. This Steve McKenna played by Ben Foster is a tortured aimless soul. Foster’s Steve McKenna is a much more interesting character than Vincent’s much shallower version of Steve McKenna and Ben Foster is the driving emotional force behind this movie.
Then there’s Harry McKenna, Donald Sutherland today, Keenan Wynn yesterday and this is where the structure of the story is dramatically altered. Both of our Arthur’s take out their boss as they were instructed by the powers that be, but the new Arthur needed a reason… some kind justification to do this thing which led to a double cross which then drove the explosive action in this movie. The old Arthur did the job because it was the next job.
Another thing that was different was the relationship between Arthur and Steve with the original presenting the relationship as odd, subtly romantic in a sense with both men filling some kind of void for each other. The new relationship has a much simpler, teacher-master dynamic to it, nothing more. Now the new film did throw in a gay scene, perhaps as an homage to the subtext in the original but know that it didn’t involve Steve and Arthur.
We can’t even compare the action, this being 2011, that being 1972. The action sequences in this version of ‘The Mechanic’ are spectacular, violent, explosive, over the top. This is an action movie first and foremost, which is why we have the added character of Dean (Tony Goldwyn) who is our defacto bad guy and gives our heroes some kind of united goal and a reason to blow shit up. The original had a couple of action scenes in it but it was a more cerebral, relationship driven film. There was no real bad guy just our anti-heroes trying to survive, but the reason given for the double cross in 2011 fly much better than the reasons given for the attack on our respective Mechanics in 1972.
Now we come to the conclusion. Same thing, Steve kills Arthur and Arthur knowing Steve was going to kill him rigs a car to blow up after the fact, leaving him note just to let him know. Ah, but here’s where it get sticky. The original Arthur knew early on that Steve had a file to put him down and rigged the car just in case he went through with it. The original Arthur thought Steve had poisoned him as revenge for killing his father but Steve didn’t know and more importantly didn’t care. He’s just an asshole. In the new version Steve found out by accident that Arthur killed his father as they were packing up to get the hell outta there, away from Dean’s goon squad of crazed assassins. There’s more crazy action, more shit blows up, Dean is dead and at a gas station Steve decides to blow up Arthur’s truck, with Arthur in the truck, as revenge for his father death. Fine. Steve goes back to Arthur’s house gets in his classic jag, drives off, reads the note, car blows up. Not fine.
First of all, when did Arthur have the time to rig the car? He didn’t know that Steve knew that he killed his father until they were well on their way to blow shit up in Dean’s honor leaving him no time to circle back, rig cars and write notes. He would’ve had to assume from the get go that Steve would one day try to kill him and thus rig his car to blow up, also having the presence of mind to write a note, and also assume that Steve would come back to his house and get his car. Needless to say that’s not working for me. The most disappointing part of this is that Arthur actually survives his assassination attempt. Normally I would call that a copout but hey, after three ‘Transporters’ and two ‘Cranks’ I guess we can have four ‘Mechanics’ and a dead Arthur Bishop would make that difficult. The only problem with a possible sequel is the most interesting character in this movie is the one that ended up not surviving this movie.
But don’t get me wrong, I still liked 98.8 percent of this movie. Fast moving, fast action, hyper violent, Ben Foster going out on a limb, Jason Statham sticking in his comfort zone and an old dude getting a fifth of Cutty Sark and calling it ‘The Good Stuff’. Seriously old dude? Cutty Sark? 98.8 percent. That last 1.2 percent just kept me from loving this movie.