Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Ivan Drago has slipped behind the director’s chair it would seem with his second stab at calling the shots in Nu Image’s ‘The Mechanik’ re-titled ‘The Russian Mechanic’ for its American release.  I’m going to call this flick ‘The Mechanik’ even though the copy I received was entitled ‘The Russian Specialist’ because while watching this movie I was telling myself that a way cooler title for this thing would have been ‘The Mechanic’.  Me and Dolph are on the same wavelength over here so ‘The Mechanik’ it is.  So how is Dolph Lungren as a director?  Is the tall Swede the second coming of Martin Scorcese or is it time for Ed Wood to step aside and make room for some company in the directors basement?

Nikolai Chernenko is a simple mechanic in a small Russian town when Mob kingpin Sasha Popov (Ivan Petrshinov) rolls through to finalize a drug deal.  Why in these movies does some squirrelly dude ‘ask for more money’ from some brutal Mob guy when deal is practically finished?  Well this dude did just that and soon there’s a gunfight.  Tragically caught in the crossfire is Nikolai’s wife and young son, breaking Nikolai’s heart and ruining his once calm and peaceful life.  Thing is, Nikolai is a former member of the Russian equivalent of the Special Forces and with his crazy mad skills, he makes Sasha and them pay for the crimes they committed against he and his.  With that business taken care of and his life essentially over in Russia, he transfers himself to Los Angeles for a lonely solitary life as a simple car mechanic.

Years later Nikolai’s past catches up to him as a wealthy Russian woman tracks down the sullen mechanic and requests that he spearhead a plan to return to St. Petersburg and retrieve her kidnapped daughter.  Nikolai isn’t the least bit interested, despite the

500 large attached to the gig until he sees that Sasha is the man behind the kidnapping, who Nikolai inexplicably didn’t finish off seven years before.  In St. Petersburg Nikolai connects with British lush Burton (Ben Cross) and they assemble a team to storm Sasha’s house of ill repute and retrieve the girl that Sasha has pumped full of smack and has her working the room.  As you might imagine, guns shoot massive amount of bullets, cars give chase, bodies get bloody holes blown out of them which will ultimately lead to an old western style showdown where Nikolai informs us that his strategy is to ‘Kill Them All’.

Though I don’t think we’re ready to crown Dolph Lungren the next Scorcese he’s certainly no Ed Wood either.  Dolph has obviously seen enough of these and has been in enough of these movies that he has a pretty sound working knowledge of what is expected of the genre and how it should proceed.  ‘The Mechanik’ moves quickly, maybe a little too quickly for that matter because around the forty minute mark our crew of commandos had already stormed the brothel for what I thought was big showdown having me worried how they’re going to pad the next forty minutes of this thing.  And though there were maybe one too many scenic shots of the beautiful Russian countryside for my tastes, Director Dolph still left plenty of room for plenty more killin’.  On the more technical side, I think Dolph may have fell too much in love with the Slo-Mo shot as he had Slo-Mo of characters walking up stairs, inhaling cigarettes, looking to the left, looking to the right or looking straight ahead.  Just too much damn slow motion.  Also the fade to black transition usually following a slo-mo was overused as well I might add. The problem was that the fade didn’t always facilitate a change of scenery or the passage of time, it was used for dramatic effect and the effect was fairly lost after the first twenty or so times you saw it.

I will say that Director Dolph realized the limitations of Actor Dolph and limited both the emotional range and dialog of the character of Nikolai.  Since the cast was largely Russian, it made sense that THEY should speak the language and have Dolph merely utter a phrase here or there and it was certainly a wise decision in keeping the character of Nikolai consistently sullen, angry and hostile with the need for few words to emote these very basic characteristics. 

As we have sadly lamented before, it is a shame that the action movies that guys grew up loving have been shuffled off to DTV – but not because DTV isn’t a viable medium because I’m a fiend for DTV, but only in that they no longer get the respect they deserve.  ‘The Mechanik’ certainly isn’t anything new or unique in this genre but it does deliver what one watching this kind of film would expect and delivers it well.  It may be time to turn Dolph loose on some of that Jane Austin stuff and see what he can do with that.

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