The Mechanic (2011) Review

The Mechanic is a remake of a ’70s Charles Bronson film, Jason Statham enough of a hard-edged bad ass to fill those shoes. Even Ben Foster is rightly placed as an apprentice to a clean working assassin.

Why then doesn’t it work? For one, it’s rather arid, attempting to develop character between the two leads who will inevitably end up in a specific situation because of a set up that couldn’t be more obvious. Not many people will attend a Statham piece for chit-chat, especially one casting him as a hired gun… like just about everything else he’s in.

There’s nothing wrong with falling into that typecast either, Statham gifted with the spirit, vigor, and the looks to be one of Hollywood’s current leading action men. Here, he’s simply plodding, and when the time comes to throw some punches, everything begins to slide downhill thanks to the chaotic editing.

Tone is bothersome too, The Mechanic having some fun with a contrivance about a car jacker, only to turn it around into an unfunny, dark, and even disturbing beat down. The viewer is then taken into the assassin life and plotting behind these kills, Foster’s character unraveling as he tracks down a detestable man with a passion for chihuahuas (amongst other things). The fight that follows is gory, yet cartoony, the combatants throwing themselves through more glass than any one home should contain.

We follow these two brute force killers into the attempted assassination of a televangelist, a sequence that means nothing, does nothing, and goes nowhere. The entire arrangement, followed from the beginning when the information is sent to them, to the set-up, and down to the kill itself, is meaningless. Nothing comes of it except an increased body count, and the need to explain away how no one saw a 20+ man shoot out in a hotel.

Maybe The Mechanic does redeem itself near the end, a hilariously over-the-top car chase concerning a garbage truck and a bus that makes Speed look passe. It feels a bit stunted though, restrictive possibly due to budget concerns. Sadly, the same can’t be said for this lag fest as a whole, where otherwise talented people are drug through the mud, sluggishly making their way to the energy blast that is the finale.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Shot with what appears to be a coarse film stock, a grain structure that this AVC encode from Sony doesn’t seem too appreciative of. Shots of the sky, solid colored walls, and a few other interiors reveal the grain a little too forcefully. Despite a relatively high bitrate, grain stops being grain and moves into a noisier territory with somewhat alarming regularity.

The Mechanic is also “gifted” a smothering warm, orange tint, the entire movie at times feeling monochromatic. A little teal will save the day, and disappointing those here for a little New Orleans sightseeing. Black levels rescue the depth from a pit of orange despair, occasionally looking for a reason to attack the shadow detail, but in general terms, staying under control. The contrast on the other hand is quite blistering, not in a sense that it whitewashes the image, but remains dominant even inside seedy bars. It’s a constant presence.

Otherwise, it’s easy to give this one a pass, a clean, clear, sharp presentation that only falters when the focus turns soft. An instance or two of smoothing remains quick to pass, close-ups generally firm in their level of outstanding definition. When the camera pulls back, it holds too, the mid-range just as well textured. Cities, homes, and offices produce superlative environmental detail, trees, bricks, and tiny windows at the top of a skyscraper impressively resolved. Fancy cars that remain a staple of Statham efforts are free of even minimal aliasing, and high contrast edges remain pure.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Let’s skip to the end of this one since that’s where the good stuff lies, a house going up in flames from a concentrated explosion that rattles your own home as well at it rattles the one in the film. If you were disappointed by an explosion or some gunfire earlier, this one totally absolves itself.

There’s certainly not a lack of bass here though, the minor length if epically scaled car chase just prior enough to bring the neighbors over to turn that racket down. The score is weighted with drums, some ominous, some meant to set a pace to the action. Either way, it’s guaranteed employment for the subwoofer.

The surrounds on the other hand… not so much. They struggle to remain activated, a shoot-out around 1:01:00 featuring plenty of glass shattering, and not much tracking overhead. A few gunshots are prioritized in the rears, the rest floundering around the fronts with only minor directionality. Of course, there’s again no shortage of low-end support, even a montage at 36-minutes producing some unmissable thumps in the sub. It’s shame the surrounds seem leery to jump into the fray sometimes.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A selection of five deleted scenes last about 11-minutes, followed by a general studio making-of featurette, Tools of the Trade. BD-Live and MovieIQ support remain.

Extras ★★☆☆☆