It took almost seven minutes for anyone to say a word in this remake of a Charles Bronson movie. And the first words? Jason “I’m like the English, more gravelly Bruce Willis” Statham explaining his work as a hit man, so we’re immediately initiated into the drama and adrenaline. Quickly, I realize I should be screaming and pointing at the TV, as Donald Sutherland, playing Statham’s mentor, gives friendly, calm, terrifying advice to the efficient killer. Then we get a shot of disjointed sex and a woman’s butt. So it’s kind of a whirlwind, right from the get-go.
I find out soon that this movie is called The Mechanic because Statham finds hits by looking for job listings for mechanics online. Drama ensues when the camera pans to show that the job is to kill Donald Sutherland. Statham meets with the man who calls the hit, and he explains that Donald Sutherland is a two-timing snitch. Statham shows no emotion, leaving the audience wondering ““ will he kill his friend?
But not for long! Statham performs the hit, which involves a surprisingly moving bit of acting by Donald Sutherland in an otherwise emotionless movie, and stages it to look like a carjacking. Donald Sutherland’s son follows up with some less awesome acting of his own when he decides to get revenge by killing all the carjackers he can find. Statham stops Donald Sutherland’s son from killing the carjacker though and Donald Sutherland’s son is so impressed and also bloodthirsty that he badgers Statham into training him as a hit man. The movie rolls from there, and it’s a bizarre exploration of violence and revenge.
I think there were about two people of color that had speaking lines. The first person of color ““ the carjacker! The second person of color ““ he just tries to sell Statham a boat! There are no women except for when they are sexin’ up the two main male characters (Statham and Donald Sutherland’s son) or getting threatened with extreme violence. So this movie doesn’t even come close to the Bechdel test. Unlike the action movies I love (and I love a lot of them), this one didn’t even attempt to draw in any audience outside of their 18-49 white male demographic.
And boy, did it try to draw in that demographic. The cinematography was entirely focused on making the main characters look like some hot stuff. Every shot was framed and placed with “cool” in mind. To be fair, it did look pretty cool at parts. It succeeds in the cool, but there was no real interest in telling a story. I spent the movie yearning for more straight forward shots of the action.
The biggest problem for me, besides the glorification of a certain type of white male, is the weird way in which this movie takes the whole good guy/bad guy dichotomy to the extreme. In this movie, all the people they kill are “bad” in some way, which is there, I think, so we can feel comfortable cheering for Statham even though he’s obviously a sociopath. But it pushes me beyond the bounds of how far I can suspend my disbelief; I mean, that set up is really convenient, right? Like, don’t hit men sometimes have to kill good people who stand in the way of bad people? And why aren’t they letting our sociopath, I mean “hero,” fall into a bit of a gray area? He’s a hit man, for goodness sakes! I don’t need a philosophical treatise, but some character exploration and emotional development would be OK.
That’s the problem with the whole movie, though. It’s so wrapped up in its image and “cool” that it forgets to actually have a story. It feels like ¾ of the way through the movie, they realized they can’t just have weird lenses and random action and call it a plot. I’m very forgiving when it comes to action movies because I really like explosions and sweaty dudes in dirty clothes, but this one pushed my limits. This movie was nothing more than an exercise in flash ““ totally insubstantial.