This man would never dribble ketchup on his shirt.

The Mechanic

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis



            The Mechanic is a blood bath. Rated R for "strong brutal violence throughout, language, sex, and nudity," it is fueled by testosterone and gasoline, an ominous mix in the hands of action film director Simon West. On a cold winter day with just two women in the audience, man fans were indulging in what is apparently a dominant fantasy: death, explosions, and guns.
            Arthur (Jason Statham) is an assassin whose assignments are delivered by cell phone. Harry (Donald Sutherland) makes a brief (perhaps you can guess why ) appearance as the mentor who taught Arthur everything he knows about killing. Steve (Ben Foster) is an alcoholic weakling who can't figure out what to do with his life. He chooses Arthur as a role model. "I wanna know what you know. I wanna do it."
            As Arthur, the middle-aged killer, teaches Steve, the younger one, the tools of the trade, we too learn his principles. 1) Never kill with motivation. Motivation, you see, can lead to emotional complications. 2) Keep it clean and anonymous. A clean kill prevents mechanical complications.
            Now that Steve is a fully trained sidekick, we have the full length of the movie to see how well he has learned Arthur's lessons. How many ways can you do a quick, clean kill? Well, let's see. There's death by drowning in one's own pool in front of one's own bodyguards; death by a pistol bullet into a wheelchair bound victim; death by multiple kicks to a disintegrating head; death by strangulation; death by quick acting injection; death by fists when our hero destroys a crowd. Oh yes, and death by screwdriver into a sexual predator who is 6'7", 300 pounds; death by smothering; death by throwing the victim off the roof; death by an underwater spear; and most exciting of all, death by suitcase handle.   Remember also to look for threat of death by feeding an arm down a garbage disposal. And those are just the impersonal victims.
            When things get personal, the stakes get bigger - death in a cacophony of simultaneous truck, bus, and car collisions that fill the sky. When Steve says "You're wrong. Vengeance is the mission," we are wise enough by now to know he has succumbed to motivation. The climactic fireballs are terrific, and be sure to watch for a big surprise delivered by a security camera.
            By eliminating plot and character, the filmmakers are free to focus entirely on violence which is delivered in close-up by a cast of dozens of stuntmen and computer animators. About Ben Johnson, actor, it can be said that he is good at playing a weakling. About Jason Statham, actor, it can be said that he is lean and mean and clean. This man would never dribble ketchup on his shirt. When he intones "What I do requires a certain mind set," we can only think "Yes, and watching what you do requires a certain mind set of your audience."
 

 


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