Action Movie Fanatix Review: The Mechanic (2011)

The Most Powerful Criminals Believe They’re Untouchable.  They’re Dead Wrong.

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn

Director: Simon West

2011  |  93 Minutes  |  Rated R

“There’s no one better than you, ya know.” – Harry McKenna

I watched the remake of The Mechanic multiple times before ever watching the Charles Bronson original.  After seeing both multiple times now, I am ready to weigh in on which one I prefer.

Arthur Bishop is a mechanic, an elite assassin with a talent for making his kills look like an accident.  He is the best in the business.  When he gets the order to kill his mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) he questions the orders but opts to fulfill the contract.  After attending the Harry’s funeral, Arthur takes Harry’s son, Steve (Ben Foster) on as an apprentice.  Arthur discovers a conspiracy within the company and he and Steve go after the man who put out the contract on Harry.  Tensions rise and soon Arthur may have to watch his own back.

The story of the remake is very similar to the original but Simon West didn’t take the easy way out and just shoot a scene for scene remake.

Simon West attempts to create an opening scene with as much of an impact as the original’s 15 minute speechless opener.  Although West doesn’t fall flat on his face, what he creates is just not as impactful as the original.  It is more action packed and features an, arguably, more original kill but it doesn’t have the same build that the original did.

Jason Statham’s Arthur Bishop has a lot more heart than Charles Bronson’s does.  Statham brings so much more personality to this character.  He isn’t just the cold uncaring mechanic from the original.  He is made to look like a good guy, a hitman with a heart, if you wheeeel (Dusty Rhodes voice).  After each of the kills he explains why they deserved to die, whereas the original’s Arthur Bishop just killed them because he was paid to.

Ben Foster’s Steve McKenna is more of a loose cannon than Jan-Michael Vincent’s portrayal.  From the moment we are first introduced to Steve McKenna we get the sense that he is a trouble maker but there is still a sense that he has a good heart.  He’s kind of a young angry drifter who makes a lot of bad choices but deep down there is some good there.  And Ben Foster plays this part to a T.

You also get the sense that the hooker cares for Arthur, again unlike the original.  She offers to cook for him and repeatedly asks to find out Arthur’s real name.  The original just asked for a raise.  This one is the hooker with the heart.

The pacing of the entire movie is much, much better than the original.  Even in the middle of the movie where Arthur is training Steve it doesn’t lag down to the point where I am falling asleep.  They work in an extra initiation kill for Steve which is interesting to say the least.

Another huge difference here is the whole conspiracy storyline.  The original just had Steve getting paid to take out Arthur.  The remake has guys who are supposed to be dead resurfacing which proves that Harry hadn’t been guilty of crossing the company.  And on top of that Steve isn’t hired to kill Arthur, he finds out that Arthur had killed his dad and goes after Arthur out of revenge.

In terms of shear action, the 2011 version of The Mechanic blows away the original.  The Mechanic has some really great, memorable action scenes specifically the sky scraper scene where Bishop and McKenna do battle with a pervy televangelist’s body guards before jumping off the roof.  There is also the kill of Dean, the head of the organization, which is an absolutely awesome sequence… but I won’t ruin it if you haven’t seen it yet.

If you haven’t seen The Mechanic, do it!  It isn’t a perfect action movie but there are a good number of gritty, violent and memorable kills and some really interesting characters and storylines.  There are a few ways where the original is better than the remake but in general I like this version much better.