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John Lichman's third attempt at a personal blog and online savanting idiotic.

Posts Tagged ‘The Mechanic

The Rest Of The Best 2011

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Let’s make this ¬†short and sweet. Consider this an Idiot’s version of the Skandies if the Skandies had a brow lower than the common denominator.

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The Mechanic (2010)

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Dir. Simon West

Despite the promise of a long-haired Jan Michael Vincent, I opted to stick with Simon West’s remake of The Mechanic as my first foray into the world of a moralistic hitman whose sole regret is he doesn’t have a real friend. In fact, it did rather poorly in wide release. And yet, it does something impossible: it turns Ben Foster into a bad motherfucker.

This is much harder to accomplish when you’re paired up with Jason Statham, especially in a post-Crank/London world that has accomplished a dual goal: Jason Statham as immortal video game character and, to a noticeably different viewer, impotent drug addict so self-aware of his plight that he must engage in eternal violence. Let’s not overlook the other important point: Jason Statham looks cool shooting guns, taking down random Red Shirts and spouting off zen-like one-liners so casually that he already outshines his forefathers of Van Damme, Seagal and Norris. But it’s unfair to compare those to Statham, since he really does have a lot in common with the original lead, Charles Bronson.

Both Bronson and Statham have given the moral gunslinger a new definition in their definitive time periods. For Bronson, he was an impotent vigilante in a hyper-corrupt Manhattan, a fucked-up snow globe that begged for Giuliani. Statham? An amoral gun for hire that hints of past deeds being so evil that all he can do is kill worse people before he inevitably shacks up with someone’s daughter or a stripper…or a stripper’s daughter and learns to train her like a stripper to love her? Ok, this is getting too intertextual for its own good.

Which let’s us come back to The Mechanic. A remake of the 1972 film of the same exact plot (“mechanic” is slang for a hit man with a heart of gold, said mechanic is tricked into killing long-time friend/partner, long-time friend/partner’s scrappy son wants revenge and ironically goes to mechanic for a degree in the homicidal arts, friendship formed, but then…) so why bother recapping it?

Instead, the partner is by far the most fascinating part. Ben Foster has the type of quiet on-screen rage that he’s seldom allowed to let out. It goes from a type of infatuation (3:10 From Yuma) to devotion (30 Days of Night) and here it is this unsettling combination that forms a third role: the bad motherfucker. It could be argued lazy plotting by Simon West, but to allow Foster the chance to be “more brutal” than Statham is a fascinating choice. Here we have true rage, not even the quiet storm that Statham hides with a quip and blur of movement: for his first kill, Foster’s character chooses to brutalize a man he’s supposed to poison while posing as a vulnerable twink.

It’s rare to see someone hold a screen presence that actually rivals and threatens Statham’s own–i.e. War, which has the single lamest twist ever just to get him on a bus poster with Jet Li. And this remake of The Mechanic isn’t really horrendous, if anything West is keen with dispensing action and sex frequently enough that any PG-13 kid should be giddy looking back on the Tomb Raider films and recently with Human Target on Fox. But even the most oblivious fanboy probably would feel a twinge of confusion when they wonder why Foster isn’t the hero of this updated revenge/fuck fantasy.

Written by john lichman

May 26, 2011 at 12:48 am