Jason Statham continues to prove he’s the Arnie for the i-Pod generation in The Mechanic. Just like the Austrian Oak, Statham boasts the sort of indestructible presence that cuts through the most idiotic of material, singlehandedly ensuring The Mechanic remains halfway watchable. Mercifully, director Simon West also has him retain his London accent, there’s no Pasadena by way of Peckham nonsense here.
Lacking the sick, knowing humour of the Crank series (guilty pleasures if ever they existed), The Mechanic directs Statham’s presence back towards the tone of the Transporter movies. While no Charles Bronson (who took the starring role in the 1972 original on which West’s film is based), he’s an entertaining, gravel-voiced entity nonetheless.
As Arthur Bishop, a top-class assassin who specialises in the most difficult of assignments, Statham is well-cast: lacking a personality outside the ability to look dead cool while shooting/punching/stabbing people. Forced to take on a job he doesn’t want to take on, Bishop then finds himself mentoring the son of his latest target (Ben Foster).
But truthfully this isn’t a film to test the boundaries of narrative cinema. It’s a disposable piece of exploitation trash that’s no more sophisticated than its progenitor. The first half deploys Statham’s presence to interesting, if superficial, effect, but it’s only a matter of time before he and Foster are put through the usual explosive set-pieces.
It’s pure macho beefcake, as nonsensical as you’d expect (Statham enjoys a bit of Schubert in his spare time in his New Orleans bayou hideout, ‘cos he’s sensitive inside, y’know?), but at least it knows its audience. Of course, that means there’s the usual sneering adolescent mindset towards certain targets and every narrative twist is as visible as Statham’s gleaming bald pate.
But heck, compared to the overbearing dreariness of Biutiful, released concurrently, it’s tremendous fun. There’s the odd nifty touch (nothing to match the wit of West’s Con Air though), but in the end it’s the spectacle of Jason Statham marching around like the Tottenham Terminator that wins out. Betrayal is one thing, woe betide you if you steal his fish and chips…