Slick remake of ‘70s action flick a hit

If there really must be big, loud re-makes (and apparently, there must), we can at least celebrate the fact that — finally — someone got it right.

Ben Foster and Jason Statham star as a hitman and apprentice in The Mechanic

Ben Foster and Jason Statham star as a hitman and apprentice in The Mechanic

If there really must be big, loud re-makes (and apparently, there must), we can at least celebrate the fact that — finally — someone got it right.

The Mechanic, a souped-up version of the 1972 Charles Bronson action vehicle, is slick. That film wasn’t overly big on intelligence — not surprisingly, neither is the re-make — but dang, did it have style! And, when you’re going for a whole lot of edge and not a lot else, Jason Statham is a pretty good choice to plop in the driver’s seat.

Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a mechanic, which is to say he’s a specialist assassin, remarkably adept at making his hits look like accidents. It’s a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business.

When the film begins (in a shortened, although cool nod to the original in which the opening 16 minutes rolled by with no dialogue as Bronson prepared for a hit), Bishop rubs out some wicked kingpin in his swimming pool, even though a sea of beefy, heavily-armed bodyguards roam about.

Then Bishop’s employer (a predictably shady Tony Goldwyn) gives him a touchy contract. Arthur is forced to kill his mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland).

Perhaps out of guilt, or maybe he just sees something in the hothead, Bishop goes on to teach Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) everything he knows about being a “mechanic.” And we ain’t talking 30-point inspection here.

It’s a surprisingly good pairing: the cold, expressionless, textbook action hero teamed with a very loose, very angry young buck. Director Simon West (Con Air) blows things up awfully good, which should make adrenaline junkies happy.

But there’s something within The Mechanic that puts it a notch above Statham’s usual kick-butt fare (Crank, The Transporter, etc.). This one, for the most part, takes itself seriously. Sure, it’s absurd at almost every turn, but the fact that West and company refuse to crack a smile? Pretty cool.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give The Mechanic a three and a half. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.