PLOT: A remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson flick about a professional killer
BOTTOM LINE: Flashy and loud, but ultimately a weak substitute for the gutsy original.
CAST: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland
Philosophical fortitude isn't what you normally expect from an action flick, but "The Mechanic" is a special case. In the 1972 original, Charles Bronson played a hit man who kills his best friend, then hires the dead man's son - a soulless pretty boy played by Jan Michael Vincent - to help with future assignments. It was a film with no heroes, only villains, and it stuck to its nihilistic guns from start to brutal finish.
The new version has more action, louder music and harder abs in the form of Jason Statham. But its core is soft and squishy. Clinging to false heroism and terrified of anything too dark, "The Mechanic" is a tough-guy movie for wimps.
The premise remains mostly the same. Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a fix-it man for the kindly underworld figure Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). Bishop kills him anyway - a job's a job. At the funeral, Bishop spots Harry's troubled son, Steve (Ben Foster, of "The Messenger"), and decides to give the kid an outlet for his anger.
"The Mechanic" is too gutless to accept its characters as they were originally written by Lewis John Carlino, who is guilty of helping out here. Bishop kills bad guys (arms dealers, drug lords) as if that makes him a good guy; the film invents another villain, a double-dealing crime boss played by Tony Goldwyn, to let Bishop further off the hook. Even the sociopathic Steve is absolved by a new motivation, revenge.
Well, how convenient. The biggest moral cowards here are the filmmakers, who killed the original Bishop for nothing more than a little money.
Back story: Taking falls for one of his heroes
"I watched many of his movies, most of them," the British actor, 38, told the Houston Chronicle. "Probably my favorite was 'Hard Times.' That's a great one. Doesn't get mentioned a lot, but I remember me mum and dad showed me that one years and years ago. He's great, one of the heavyweights."
A former member of the British national diving team, Statham performed most of his own stunts, including a jump from a high bridge into a river that certainly benefited from his athletic experience. "You can get out the pause button! You can see me all the way down. That is not a CG stunt." But he admits there were times when he looked around and thought, "Should I really be doing this?"
"Yeah!" he says, laughing. "There's always that aspect. But I've sort of dug myself a hole with doing me own stunts. And Ben Foster, he put himself in the rig for the high fall outside the building. That's a guy who's afraid of heights. When you're doing a movie, you always have something to prove to yourself. And all the best rewards come from pushing yourself into areas you don't want to be."