Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) is a well skilled but aging hit-man who enjoys the finer things. When he’s studying his next human target, he’ll stop from looking at the expensive art hanging on his wall, put a pipe in his mouth to smoke, while wearing his nice red robe and listening to classical music, and sip on his hard to find sherry. But the lonely life of his profession has caught up to him; not even the prostitute he tips extra for love letters can do it for him anymore. This is so much a problem that Bishop spends a night in the hospital after he has a nervous breakdown.
When a young and curious Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent) bonds with him over a disturbingly delightful scene where they watch a scorned lover of Steve’s slit her wrists, Bishop decides to make Steve his apprentice. (Trailer voice) These are two men who play by their own rules.
I’ve seen Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and even in an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I had never caught the gravely voiced tough guy actor in any of his street vigilante films (Death Wish 1-5 and so many others) of the 70’s and 80’s that he became most famous for. That is until now. He’s a man and I’ll toast to that. I did my homework and found out he was one of Hollywood’s latest superstar bloomers. Bronson didn’t reach international leading marquee man status until he was in his 40s. I’ll also toast to that.
Bronson and his remake actioneer actor Jason Statham are quite similar. They both paved their way with supporting roles in more acclaimed films (Unce Upon a Time in the West, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) but critics didn’t have much praise for their starring action films (The Evil That Men Do, Transporter). The late Charles Bronson once responded to his critics saying: “We don’t make movies for critics, since they don’t pay for them anyway.” Good point. Let me make a good point and side with most critics. Bronson’s The Mechanic has its pluses, but it doesn’t go any deeper than scratching the surface of its more interesting themes; instead it falls back on its banal action and at times eighth grade reading level dialog.
Turns out Bishop only needed a friend to calm his nerves, since it’s a detail they never come back to. They play handball, watch some martial art matches, and wax over daddy issues. O.K. friends are important so I’ll buy it, but the unique and oddly sweet relationship forged between the two is left by the wayside to focus on dull action set pieces. A shame.
The story does evolve with some nice twists and is at its best when it emphasizes the deadly cat and mouse psychological games that are played, but again that plays a distant second fiddle
Director Michael Winner doesn’t fix this faulty vehicle and is annoying with his obsession with using the color red all over the film (we get it already, red mean blood and danger, you’re so freaking clever). On a side note, I know that Bronson’s hair hanging over his face is one of his trademarks, but after the 17th time he flicked it back from over his eyes I was wishing the next hit his mob boss would order him to do would be that big mop of hair of his.
I was a big fan of the ending. Very ballsy. Kudos. I just wish that, like the main characters of The Mechanic, director Michael Winner and screenwriter Lewis John Carlino wouldn’t have gone for the lame usual and (trailer voice) played by their own rules.
Take a Drink: when anyone dies (prepare to drink and eat a meal prior).
Take a Drink: when it’s obvious something colored red means danger.
Do a Shot: when martial arts happens