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The Mechanic (2011) DVD Review

The Mechanic (2011) movie poster The Mechanic

Theatrical Release: January 28, 2011 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Simon West / Writers: Lewis John Carlino (story & screenplay), Richard Wenk (screenplay)

Cast: Jason Statham (Arthur Bishop), Ben Foster (Steve McKenna), Tony Goldwyn (Dean), Donald Sutherland (Harry M. McKenna), Mini Anden (Sarah), Jeff Chase (Burke), Christa Campbell (Kelly), James Logan (Jorge Lara), Eddie Fernandez (Lara's Guard), Joshua Bridgewater (Car Jacker), John McConnell (Andrew Vaughn), Mark Anthony Nutter (Mr. John D.E. Finch), Lara Grice (Mrs. Finch), Lance Nichols (Henry), Ada Michelle Loridans (Finch's Daughter)

Buy The Mechanic on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy The Mechanic on Blu-ray from Amazon.com • Buy The Mechanic (1972) on DVD


In his thirteen years of film acting, former competitive diver Jason Statham has made his modus operandi very clear. The balding British tough guy is interested in action movies, particularly action movies in which he is the star. He's managed to make an active career out of that interest,
with movies like The Transporter, Transporter 2, Crank, Transporter 3, and Crank: High Voltage. Sticking with this niche has made him one of Lionsgate's favorite movie stars, in between Tyler Perry and Saw staple Tobin Bell.

Wikipedia makes it look like 2011 will be Statham's busiest year to date, but looks can be deceiving. Two movies in different stages of production -- The Killer Elite with Robert De Niro and Safe with Chazz Palminteri -- may or may not make it to theaters by New Year's Eve. Blitz, for his beloved Lionsgate, opened in the UK this weekend, but is going straight to video in the States this August. For something entirely different, there was Gnomeo & Juliet, Statham's first animated movie, in which he supplied the voice of Tybalt. That covers everything but The Mechanic, the subject of this review and the year's one surefire signature Statham flick to play in US theaters.

A loose remake of the 1972 film starring Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, The Mechanic casts Statham as Arthur Bishop. Though it is the title role, don't ask him to look under your hood. This New Orleans-based "mechanic" fixes different problems, the kind in which someone needs to be killed without any trail left behind. Arthur is serious about his profession and highly skilled at it. When he gets an assignment via decrypted classified ad, he considers it and usually carries it out. It's not personal, just business. Until Arthur is hired to kill his fatherly mentor, paraplegic legend Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). Arthur does the deed in his own precise way, but for apparently the first time, he feels some guilt and remorse.

And so, Arthur (Jason Statham, right) begins his mentorship of Steve (Ben Foster), not on the battlefield but at the dog pound.

Those feelings motivate him to look out for Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster), who is angry and hungry for vengeance, but also uninformed. Before Steve can expel his rage at a random carjacker, Arthur intervenes. Knowing enough about his father's line of work, Steve asks to become Arthur's apprentice, intrigued by the whole killing people thing. Arthur agrees and the two take turns carrying out missions.

No character or purpose invites sympathy here. As Arthur and Steve execute their hits, comments are casually dropped to vilify the targets. The two big ones are both said to be predators, plus one is a fat, ugly, druggie cult leader and the other, a rival "mechanic", is gay and likes dogs. In the movies, revenge kills are acceptable and sometimes laudable, but you've got to show the true evil before eradicating it. The scenes in this movie have the feel of an extremely ill-timed cinema bathroom break, in which you return to your seat in confusion to watch a gruesome, premeditated murder take place, only to have your friend, after the soundtrack has quieted, lean over to you and whisper that it was a bad guy that just got killed. The whisper doesn't erase your concerns or completely change your perceptions and nor do the accusations dropped here.

That isn't supposed to matter to the veteran assassin and his protιgι, but I'm hoping your moral code is a little less scrambled. Sure, this is escapism and a well-known rule of thumb is to turn off your brain before watching a Jason Statham movie. Still, there's no one to invest in or root for here. Overlooking the sadist demographic, what is to be gained from watching brutal, lethal fist-to-fist combat, which the killers' meticulous preparation is supposed to prevent?

In the way that it is set up, the film can only play out in one way, with Steve destined to discover his advisor's painful secret. Also, you'll suspect that Arthur's boss, the shrewd, wealthy, highly-guarded man known only as Dean (Tony Goldwyn) no doubt has ulterior motives that may be questioned. The movie throws in a twist ending, but devotes enough time to it that you can even deduce it with a counter in sight and runtime destination in mind.

Not long for this world, Arthur's wheelchair-bound mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) clings to his engraved favorite weapon. There are several signs to suggest douchey don Dean (Tony Goldwyn) might not be entirely on the up and up.

Foster has long been deemed a young actor to watch and his crazed turn in 3:10 to Yuma foretold certain greatness. And yet, here we are four years later and he's chewing scenery in a Jason Statham movie. Across from Statham, Foster's angry overlooked child almost seems interesting or complex, but that's only because Statham continues to play one-note stoics, the kind who have sex, drop off a stack of hundreds, and maybe crack a tiny smile before exiting. The kind who commit an unanticipated violent murder in a populated public place only to walk away calmly, attracting no notice.
The kind who answer a car ride request with an almost imperceptible nod of the head. The kind who from a secret hiding place in a wall notice and recognize that a drug being administered is sure to counteract the deadly adrenaline shot he was about to supply.

Oh, Jason Statham, please don't kill me and make it look like an accident. Because even though you're older and much shorter and only an actor playing hardened killers, I don't doubt that you could. How about I stop undermining your career choices and questioning the logic of your movies and you make something that a woman or non-violent man could enjoy? Gnomeo & Juliet doesn't count. Nor does Collateral -- you were barely in it. Nor The Bank Job, though people seemed to like that one. Maybe take a supporting role? Maybe appear in something that doesn't require the word "testosterone" to appear in more reviews than not? I'm sure Richard Curtis could find a place for you in his next big ensemble romantic comedy.

The fourth release from CBS Films, The Mechanic ranked as the young studio's second highest-grosser, but the meager $29 million North American intake paled next to the $40 M budget that made it CBS' most expensive movie to date (they merely acquired distribution rights from producing studio Millennium Films). The medium-sized movie philosophy on which CBS Films was founded continues not to pay off in dramatic ways. CBS' home video partner Sony brought The Mechanic to DVD and Blu-ray this week. We review the DVD here.

The Mechanic (2011) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like the majority of new movies, The Mechanic is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen. Though Sony usually provides some of the nicest-looking discs of any studio, this one is a bit lacking. The transfer is oddly grainy and murky and not with enough consistency to suggest those gritty stylings reflect choices made by director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and his crew. That keeps the picture from fully satisfying, but it's hardly enough to mark down the disc too much.

There is less to question regarding the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which offers a nice, immersive mix without running too wide a gamut dynamically. The gunfire and explosions meet action movie standards and the audio does a good job of putting you in the center of it all.

Sara (Mini Anden), Arthur's girlfriend or favorite prostitute (it's not clear which), opens up about herself in less than 25 words in this deleted scene. Sorry, stuntmen, Statham's got this one covered in "Tools of the Trade: Inside the Action." The orange gun is made up of smaller orange guns. That's how you know this movie means business from its main menu alone.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The modest supply of extras starts with five "deleted & extended scenes" (11:00), which should read "alternate & extended" because the first is a slight variation on the film's opening
and the rest just elongate other existing bits, revealing some new things about characters and reducing what little subtlety there is.

"Tools of the Trade: Inside the Action" (7:48) stands as the disc's making-of featurette, which boils the production down to a 33-story wire drop stunt, a Ben Foster fight, and automotive feats. What else are they supposed to talk about? Characters? Story? Acting? Suspense? There'll be none of that!

CBS Films have yet to get substantial bonus features, but at least they keep the playing field even between DVD and Blu-ray; the BD version of The Mechanic adds nothing, besides the gains of high-definition picture and sound, that is.

The "Previews" listing repeats the same items which play at disc insertion -- a 3D promo with Open Season's Elliot and Boog, followed by trailers for Faster, Battle: Los Angeles, Insidious, and Quarantine 2: Terminal -- before adding ads for the ridiculous-looking Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown and Das Boot: The Director's Cut Blu-ray.

You'll never guess what the main menu, features: a montage of action scenes set to exciting score. Orange weapons made out of weapons in the style of the teaser poster amp up transitions. The remaining menus are silent, static screens featuring publicity art. An in-case insert promotes Sony 3D and Sony's "make.believe" philosophy.

That's so Statham! Arthur (Jason Statham) shoots one of his balding British portrayer's signature over-the-shoulder looks to indicate he's watching his back. Despite all his rage, Steve (Ben Foster) is still just a rat in the cage.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Mechanic is a Jason Statham movie, which tells you off the bat that it's an R-rated action movie asking little of viewers. I can't pretend I've seen the Charles Bronson film on which this is based, but I'd bet most of you haven't either. I'd also bet that it's better than this unlikable remake, or at least worse in more interesting ways. It doesn't take much to fill either of those requirements. This Mechanic is violent, angry, stupid, and without any value to justify or account for that. Unless you just can't get enough Statham vehicles, you can definitely steer clear of this unpleasantness.

Buy The Mechanic from Amazon.com: DVD / Blu-ray / The Original 1972 Movie on DVD

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Reviewed May 21, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 CBS Films, Millennium Films, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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