The Mechanic is a film that needed a purpose. It probably would have worked better as a “last mission ever” plot, because as it is, it’s very unfocused. We spend most of the time watching Jason Statham and Ben Foster doing things that are potentially interesting, but they don’t lead to anything satisfying. Instead, we get a bunch of small missions that eventually devolve into a group of loud and messy action scenes.
Statham plays our lead, a man named Arthur who is called “Brad” by his prostitute (Mini Andén). He happens to be a mechanic, but not in the sense that you’re familiar with. In this film, a mechanic is a very impressive assassin who can eliminate targets without being seen, making it look like an accident if the client wants. The film’s opening scene shows us Arthur drowning a “suspected drug lord,” doing so in the drug dealer’s mansion while his security personnel looks on. We see how hood this guy is at his job, and we’re already hoping that he’s going to get a big job to do near the end of the film.
His second job is to kill his lifelong mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). Arthur goes through with it, and his target doesn’t resist; he knows that he’s going to be killed regardless, and would prefer it to be done by someone he knows. Harry has a son named Steve (Ben Foster) who we learn has disappointed his father for his entire life. But now it’s time to make daddy proud; Arthur begins to train Steve to be a mechanic. Steve seems to have no problems wanting to kill people for money, although he doesn’t know that his new mentor killed his father.
For most of the movie, we spend time with both characters, one of whom knows how things work, and the other one learns. They take a few smaller jobs, and we assume that we’re going to lead up to one large, final job — and maybe if it goes well, we’ll get a sequel. That’s not really what happens, which surprised me. What began as an interesting idea degenerates into a bunch of generic action scenes that you’ll see in any Statham-driven flick.
This is too bad. We’ve been told that Arthur is very good at doing his job without being seen. He keeps it clean, silent, and makes it look accidental. The last thirty minutes or so of The Mechanic is anything but clean, silent or possibly accidental. Almost everything that can blow up will (and even things that can’t blow up do), guns are fired as frequently as possible, and our two main characters don’t even wear masks or gloves to cover their trail. They don’t seem to care.
The plot eventually has a twist that you’ll probably see coming, even if there’s no reason for it and by the end, I didn’t even see how it made much sense, or why it mattered to the characters. Moreover, assuming Arthur does have a particular mindset to not make his jobs personal, the twist shouldn’t matter to him. It’s also something that’s left alone for a long time, and then comes out of nowhere after what could have been a final job for our two men.
I enjoyed the first half of The Mechanic. It involved stealth kills, learning how a mechanic operates, and the characters were witty and made me laugh. Once the guns started being fired at squishy humans, the film lost its sense of identity and became routine. The characters stopped talking to one another, all planning and intelligence went out the window, and there was nothing left to hold my attention. All of the improbable explosions in the world don’t make a lick of difference if we don’t care why they’re happening.
For what it’s worth, if you are entertained simply by explosions and gunfire, you’ll have a good time with The Mechanic. I feel that the film needs a purpose. Early on, that purpose was to give us a look at an interesting profession. Later on, that purpose is lost because the film still had a lot of budget left, and because blowing things up is just so cool. Or at least, that’s what I imagine went through the head of the filmmakers here, or maybe that’s just how the 1972 Mechanic also ended up, and probably why nobody remembers that film.
At this point in his career, Jason Statham is typecast. He’d probably admit it, and if you’ve seen The Transporter or Crank series, you’ve more or less seen this same character. This one’s more polite, and he even listens to classical music in his time out, but he’s mostly the same type of character again. That’s fine, as he’s good in that role, but you basically know what you’re getting into going in. Ben Foster brings more life to his role, although he’s a secondary character. I wanted to see more of Donald Sutherland, though, as his character gets killed off way too early and his relationship with Arthur might have been something that could have been interesting if expanded upon.
The Mechanic is fun for about 45 minutes, but after it begins degenerating into generic action sequences, I lost interest. Watching Statham be a professional hitman was enjoyable, but only when he was staying true to his calm demeanor. Once we get shootouts and background explosions the film lost its focus and purpose, leading to me no longer caring what it was doing. It’ll satisfy people who are entertained by loud noises and pretty lights, but if you want more depth to your action film, you’ll want to look past this forgettable flick.