Simon West, director of Con Air and The General's Daughter, has been off the big-screen radar long enough to properly contemplate the slick little cinematic take-over that is The Mechanic. The film's generic poster of a handgun made up of roughly sketched weapons cleverly conceals an ingenious update on the time-honored assassin-with-a-heart genre.
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) lives in a well-appointed house on a remote New Orleans waterway when he isn't executing high-paid hits for an oily corporate bigwig named Dean (Tony Goldwyn).
Arthur isn't just good at what he does, he's a "machine." It's a treat to see Donald Sutherland come into frame as Arthur's ally and former mentor Harry McKenna. Sutherland bites into his wheelchair-bound character like he's enjoying the best meal of his life.
A Rubik's Cube plot scheme puts an onus on Arthur to extend some assistance to Harry's troublesome son Steve (played with fierce intensity by the always-invested Ben Foster). Steve is a temperamental brat but he has potential as a contract killer, with suitable guidance from Arthur. The trouble is that Steve doesn't always follow directions as closely as he should.
With Arthur and Steve teamed up as tutor and pupil, the story takes an inevitable direction that proves to be still full of surprises. The filmmakers blend spectacle with vengeful intention like Van Gogh mixing colors. The Mechanic is a modern grindhouse picture that elevates the genre because it allows its characters to exert the logic of their flaws. Even an elite assassin like Arthur Bishop can make mistakes. And even a loose cannon screw-up like Steve McKenna can become an effective killer. This is one badass movie. Grade: B-plus
Opens Jan. 28. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.