The Mechanic

CBS Films

Review in a Hurry: Less frenetic than your usual Jason Statham action franchise film, this remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent vehicle is more of the kind of character-driven suspense audiences often say they want. Whether they actually do remains to be seen in the weekend's grosses.

The Bigger Picture: When Bronson originally played hitman Arthur Bishop, the notion of a killer who meticulously plans his hits to look like accidents was a relatively new one, cinematically. A remake almost seems beside the point, as the concept now feels even more commonplace than movies in which Jason Statham punches people. But when you put the two together and add Ben Foster, you get a smooth-running machine.

Statham plays exactly two kinds of characters these days: tough guy with an English accent, and tough guy with a bad attempt at a fake American accent. You may or may not be glad to know it's the former here. This modern-day Bishop find his assignments hidden on Craigslist, and is a master of efficiency even when one of his targets turns out to be his best friend and mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland in a wheelchair), who has seemingly betrayed their mutual higher-ups, led by Tony Goldwyn's icy Dean.

But lo and behold, Harry has a son, Steve (Foster), who's a heavy drinker and out for revenge. As Bishop staged the hit to look like a car-jacking, Steve's bright idea is to hang out in the 'hood waiting to get attacked so he can go psycho on any would-be assailant. Not a brilliant plan, but Bishop is trailing him and intervenes. Motivated by a combination of guilt and desire to channel Steve's rage more effectively, Bishop then starts training the young nutcase-in-the-making to become an even-tempered assassin.

You have to figure that sooner or later, the truth will come out and master and apprentice will collide. Thankfully, and surprisingly, there's actually more to the plot than that. We've learned not to expect too much from director Simon West, best known for high-concept action that often underwhelms (Con Air, Tomb Raider). Here, though, he finally reverses course, giving us a low-key thriller that delivers better drama than you'd expect—time spent on TV shows like Human Target seems to have done him some good. If you're hoping for non-stop slam-bang sequences, you'll have to be patient—there are a couple, but mostly West puts the uneasy central relationship front and center.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Though this is less over-the-top than standard Statham cinema, it's not necessarily any more realistic. For a hitman who leaves no traces, Bishop has fired off a whole lot of bullets in public and broad daylight by movie's end.

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