Whether “The Transporter” or now “The Mechanic,” Jason Statham has one job in Hollywood, but he does it quite well: being cinema’s most reliable action star of the 21st century.
Fresh from this summer’s all-star “The Expendables,” Statham takes over Charles Bronson’s role from the 1972 “Mechanic” as Arthur, the title’s hit man for hire who is ordered to off his wealthy mentor (Donald Sutherland, TV’s “The Pillars of the Earth”) and then, feeling guilty, takes the man’s destitute son, Steve (Ben Foster, “Pandorum”), under his wing.
Forever poisoning his body with intoxicants, Steve takes to the assassination game like kids to candy, yet is so eager — trigger-happy, perhaps — to channel his thirst for revenge that he doesn’t always adhere to Arthur’s strict rules.
Steve’s brazen nature, of course, is to the betterment of the film, which comes alive in set pieces of violence so seemingly real, the audience can feel it. Best among them is a hotelset sequence in which their target is a corpulent, corrupt televangelist hooked on ketamine, and the situation calls for rather unique improvisation.
After an iffy start, “The Mechanic” finds its footing, however frowning. Without wasting any more time, it plays in the 1970s sandbox of the crime films of Bronson, Clint Eastwood and their ilk, when the screen was as dirty as the evil that men do. How much of this version’s grime is the intent of director Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls”) or just a case of bad projection remains in question until this hits DVD. I suspect most audiences will wait until then to see “The Mechanic” at work.
If they have any love for The Stath, they shouldn’t.