Fresh from the 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, that even viewers at home can feel it. Best among them is a hotel-set 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.
Given the film’s tepid reception at the box office, I suspect most audiences were waiting until video to see “The Mechanic” at work. If they have any love for The Stath, they shouldn’t have, but I will say the movie looks much better on Blu-ray than it did in theaters. The issue of how much grime was intentional by director Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls”) has now been cleared up. (Answer: Chalk it up to poor projection.)
Sony’s Blu-ray offers 11 minutes’ worth of deleted and extended scenes. The first is an alternate ending to the opening sequence, so brief it's hardly worth noting. The other four are merely extended scenes, but the film itself is so well-paced, the cuts are for the curious only; they don't add anything.
An eight-minute featurette looks at the thrilling tower stunt, while West calls his film "something fresh." (Uh, this is a remake, sir, remember?) And to help you assemble your want list, four trailers unspool, for Dwayne Johnson in “Faster” (totally underrated; Johnson is a Stath-in-waiting); “Battle: Los Angeles” (one of the worst of 2011 so far), “Insidious” (some of the most effective scares I’ve ever seen) and “Quarantine 2: Terminal” (skipping theaters, but I don’t care, as it looks fun). —Rod Lott