THE MECHANIC is slick, stylish, and fun. In short, everything for which an audience turns to an action flick for a few hours of escapist entertainment. Jason Statham again proves that he is the quintessential genre protagonist: cool, efficient, with an ironic edge and credibly cerebral. This last is critical, inasmuch as he is a contractor given to elaborate and creative plans for taking out his victims, plans requiring split-second timing, and the amazing physique on display in the first five minutes of the film, as the camera lingers over Mr Stathams aesthetically toned and taut musculature.
Arthur (Statham) lives a solitary life in an architecturally stunning home deep in the swamps of Louisiana, listening to Schubert played on a turntable, and limiting romance to energetic bouts with an attractive working girl (Mini Anden) with whom he prefers to remain anonymous. He himself works for a shadowy corporation as the go-to guy for fixing problems, as he puts it, preferring the eponymous term mechanic to the more mundane term hit man. It takes a certain mind set, he notes twice during the film, though most of the targets are people who are a scourge upon humanity. His first is drug lord cleverly drowned in his own pool, for example. His next, alas, is trickier. Hes hired to fix his wheelchair-bound mentor (Donald Sutherland), who has apparently gone rogue, and Arthur knows that if he doesnt do it himself, the next person hired might not be humane about it.
It brings a sticky moral quandary to the mix, and the film builds on it by having Arthur take his mentors prodigal son, Steve (Ben Foster) under his wing. A directionless young man left penniless and even more forlorn than before, Steve envies the filial relationship his father and Arthur shared, and by way of making it up to him, Arthur brings Steve on board as an apprentice. Their relationship, by turns antagonistic and itself oddly filial, gives the film a nice texture, Arthur feeling a few pangs of repressed guilt, Steve alternately wanting to live up to Arthurs expectations, and by extension, his fathers, and wanting to act out his innately rebellious tendencies. Statham and Foster both have the stoic turmoil going for them, though Fosters flares with intense bursts that are delightfully unhinged.
Steve takes to the profession with a vengeance. When tasked with taking out a target twice his size and weight, Steve decides on a direct approach rather than spiking the other guys drink. It provides for a sequence wherein kitchen appliances become lethal weapons and Steve proves that having a weight and height advantage is nothing compared to shear determination and moxie. Steve doesnt follow orders, but in his own way, he proves to be an overachiever of sorts, though one that gives Arthur pause as few things in life do.
The action sequences on the whole are more measured that fast-paced, with suspense being the operative mood, punctuated with brief bursts of mayhem and the more of the insinuation of gore rather than the real thing. Its an effective combination that keeps the audience actively engaged in the guessing game of what will happen next.
THE MECHANIC takes a few moments for social commentary in the form of a zaftig cult leader with a weakness for double-fudge cake and 18-year-olds, but the point of the exercise is a rollicking good time and in that, it is a winner.