Friday, January 28, 2011

The Mechanic (Simon West, 2011) -- C+

The Mechanic serves as a suitable enough vehicle for Jason Statham, easily the most underrated screen presence of the past twenty years. He brings a giddy gravitas to every line he speaks and scene he's in, yet even that can't quite make the film function any better than half-assed. Assuming the role played by Charles Bronson in the 1972 original, Statham completes "assignments" (which often entail killing a target assigned by his organization), then retreats home, pops on some Schubert, momentarily brooding over his misdeeds. Thankfully, director Simon West avoids any heavy religious symbolism or overplayed existential dilemma (though bits of each waft in and out), yet he never finds a consistent tone to ground the proceedings - dialogue scenes play stagnant and awkward and the humor is often misplayed, revealing West's lack of rhythm on a conceptual level. Action sequences are chopped to shit much like nearly every other modern actioner, and the kinetic exuberance that founds the genre is lost, giving the film little reason to exist outside of its blandly enacted narrative foundations: killing a close friend, taking that friend's son under his wing, teaching him the ropes, then going after the real culprits. A refreshingly twisty ending jolts a bit of energy into the last twenty minutes or so, but it's not enough to revive The Mechanic's lack of wit, distinctive personality, visual prowess, or moral interests proceeding past the superficial.

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