There were a couple of things that surprised me about The Mechanic considering what I was expecting, it's hard edged, doesn't go too much into the fantastical action territory, is filmed well and has a great story and dynamic between the leads. This isn't quite what you'd expect from a remake of a Winner and Bronson film.
His missions come from his friend and mentor Harry, played by Donald Sutherland, who works for an organisation or rather an agency that finds the right man for whatever job they've been given.
One day he receives a mission from another member of the organisation that tests his own moral code, to kill Harry and make it look like an accident. He faces a terrible dilemma, if he doesn't complete the mission it will be passed onto another Mechanic who may not give Harry the respect that he would.
When Harry is killed the Mechanic takes his troubled son under his wing and begins to teach him everything he knows, keeping the truth from him and repeating the cover story that his father was killed in a car-jacking.
However doubts begin to emerge behind the motivation of the Harry job, and the Mechanic's suspicions of the son are rising too, just as his talents are coming to the fore to challenge the Mechanic.
Quite early on in the film there are two things that become clear, this film is a lot more stylish than you'd expect and Simon West, the director of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The General's Daughter and Con Air, has treated this film with anything but the standard action adventure view. He does make it look very cinematic, and coupled with the script and the actors they all come together to deliver something that's a lot harder and packs more punch than most of these action films.
The film looks great throughout, that's very true, a cinematic eye is on every scene and sequence and West brings a lot of style and pace to the film. He's very strong on delivering action, we've seen that before, and here he does it again.
Well, I have to knock off a little bit of that praise, sure it's more cinematic than other action films, and for half of the film the action sequences are done well, but half way through, when the action heats up and the Mechanic turns to his main target, the action gets a little too blocked out and too closely cropped.
There are two scenes that really show this, first is when the Mechanic faces another assassin on the empty shuttle bus, there's a moment during the fight where you see him pulling a white cloth tight around the other's throat and you wonder how that suddenly happened and where did it come from. It's the same case as always in these scenes where the director decides to block the action shot by shot and assemble the sequence in the editing suite rather than pull the camera back, give the audience context, and watch a start to finish fight. Why do they do that? More often than not, the actors can't fight.
Another example of this is the big car action sequence, when a car crashes through the front of a bus and piles straight down the middle of it. I certainly remember the sequence from the trailer and it looked like it was a pretty full on action, in the film though it seemed less than spectacular. Again it was difficult to follow, too closely cropped and tightly edited, and not just enough time or space to take in what was happening. So what could have been a hugely impactful action sequence, the biggest of the film, fell short.
However, there's more to this film than the action sequences, really there is. I know some of you might be thinking that this is just another Jason Statham led action film, but it's not.
The characters are given a little more depth and the story a little more weight, with the concentration being the dynamic relationship between the master assassin and the apprentice and the burden that the master is carrying on his shoulders.
That weight is kept on the story through the entirety of the film, there's a feeling that the action sequences aren't being made light of or stretched to the unbelievable, but in fact kept closer to a harder edged reality. Of course sometimes it does keep on going into true action fantasy, but the stretches are there and never really tear at the fabric of the film's reality.
The first time you really notice this is where Statham's character has his face off with Harry, his mentor and the person he works for. This is quite a turning point for the story and the audience, and early on states what you're in for, the film isn't going to pull any punches. This is the first shock of the film and it's delivered well.
There are a few more moments like this through the film where the characters make surprising choices, not so surprising that you feel you've been hit with a big plot twist, but surprising enough as it turns from the standard action film, towards a harder, more uncompromising story.
Jason Statham is good, although to be fair I think he's great in everything he does, but he's not just playing the tough hitman here, there's something genuine going on in the background, and at times you can see he's struggling with the choices he's made. Still, he's not exactly playing a complex character and many of the notes are played straight from the sheet and just as you'd expect to hear, or rather see. It is an action film after all.
I think he's better for being up against someone who isn't a straight out action star, Ben Foster, who plays his role really well. It would have been simple to keep the character in one direction from the beginning, but to start with he really wants to make a change and to become a Mechanic, and the change and tension between them is brought through well.
The Mechanic is a damn good action film with a slightly harder edge than most and a bit more meaningful and meaty story to it than other action films in the same group. The action is strong despite a few moments of standard blocking and editing falling a little short of the rest. Remember though, it's not all about the action.
Simon West provides a strong pace and sense of cinematic style to the action, and with Jason Statham and Ben Foster playing against each other so strongly, The Mechanic stands well against standard action fare and provides a good dose of thriller with the action it delivers. Enjoyable and tightly delivered, definitely worth seeing for action and thriller fans alike.