The Mechanic (2011)

By | Begun 01/27/2011
Posted in Movies |
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Ben Foster prays Jason Satham's mindset is all it's cracked up to bePhoto: CBS Films

High 3 StarsWhy I Saw It: Curious for Ben Foster, who’s on my Interested list (and probably headed for Smitten).
What I Thought: Surprisingly, really enjoyed it. Crazy violent, but you can close your eyes.

The Mechanic (2011)Dir. Simon West. Perf. Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn. CBS Films, 2011.

Accomplished corporate assassin Arthur Bishop takes on an apprentice with a connection to his own mentor. Period.

Don’tcha just love that synopsis? That’s all there is to it, really! The Mechanic is a short 90 minutes of non-stop action interspersed with sharp, witty, well-placed humor and ju-u-st enough emotional moments to assure us that these guys aren’t monsters (I think there were three). (By the way, the monster thing ~ I actually sort of have proof of this, lol. Subject for another day, stay tuned…)

This is Bourne without all the angst and namby-pamby love stuff.

It was as calculating and as violent as I expected it to be given its pedigree (which I’ve had no inclination whatsoever to include in my 2100+ repertoire). But you know what, it was tolerable. The action was so dizzying and exhilarating, it wasn’t hard just to close my eyes for a moment here and there and let it pass. At some points, sheer incredulity kept them open (as I thought, “I know you deliberately ignored him, but might you be having any second thoughts about that now?”).

So the pacing was the first thing to love, the well-placed wit the second, and the third were marvelous quotables dropped in here and there, such as, “Good judgment is usually the result of experience, which is usually the result of bad judgment.” Just fun stuff.

The casting couldn’t have been better. Jason Statham ever-ready to strike like a coiled rattler, Ben Foster full of fury and moments of acute sensitivity, Donald Sutherland as the elder statesman. Tony Goldwyn as the smooth authority-man villian was the icing on my cake, given that one of my favorite delicious moments in film is his delivery of the line, “F*-in’ PBS.”

Is The Mechanic rich in character development and backstory? Nope. We’re given about two sentences for context, and on we go. Is it multi-layered in the tradition of True Lies or Speed? Nope. The word “nuance” has as much place here as “demolition”  has in Whale Rider. Does it deliver on its promises? In spades.

It’s a testament to writers Richard Wenk and Louis John Carlino that at one point they violate a cardinal rule of fiction, one that simply is never to be messed with. I’ve seen it done successfully precisely once. I won’t spoil the outcome of what our eyes tell us, but suffice to say that if it did happen, it worked, and if it didn’t, it would have. Incredibly difficult to pull off, and an indicator as to how well-crafted this apparently two-dimensional story is.

As Bishop tells us, what the mechanics do “requires a certain mindset.” Focus, speed, anonymity. It’s how they are, it’s what they give us. Don’t ask of it more than it proposes to offer, and you will be well rewarded.

(The “once” it worked? Mouse over the dot, but be prepared for a spoiler: )

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