By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Simon West
STARS Jason Statham, Ben Foster
In the annals of "tough guy" cinema, there's not much to say about the 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle The Mechanic except that its leading character displays a refreshing lack of sentimentality (not unusual in the days of vintage squinters like Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Bronson) and its script manages to end on a neat little "gotcha." This sleek new model, also called The Mechanic, retains that twist ending but jettisons the steely sensibilities, resulting in yet one more formula flick about a taciturn killer who, despite his penchant for slaying and maiming, actually turns out to be the kind of nice guy you might consider Friending on Facebook.
Jason Statham fills the Bronson role: As Arthur Bishop, he's the best hitman around, although he's not thrilled when his next assignment turns out to be his mentor (Donald Sutherland). Preferring to work alone, he later decides to take on the old man's unruly son (Ben Foster) as his own protégé, teaching him everything he knows about the art of the kill.
The 2011 Mechanic largely follows the plotline of its predecessor, meaning that it's nothing special. Yet it goes the extra kilometer to prove its inferiority to that passable time-killer by cowardly softening its protagonist (the oldest movie profession might be the hooker with a heart of gold but the second oldest is the killer with a mind of conscience) and even copping out at the end. Yes, the "gotcha" may still be there, but other details have been altered, meaning that audience members have been snookered in more ways than one.