Mere hours after extolling the gravelly British pleasures of Jason Statham's acting career thus far to an unconvinced friend (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels! The Bank Job! those Crank movies!), I walked out of The Mechanic remembering the downside of Statham's CV: Death Race, The Expendables, etc.
Okay, so, fine, clearly the man's agent is schizophrenic when it comes to recommending roles for his client. But the bizarro battle that concludes Crank: High Voltage nullifies a lot of the crap on Statham's record. Sadly, precious little of Statham's innate self-referencing charisma is on display in The Mechanic, a half-baked remake of Michael Winner's 1972 "killer of killers" film.
Playing a role originated by Charles Bronson (rarely if ever a good idea), Statham is on autopilot as Arthur Bishop, a New Orleans-based assassin who, in a fit of conscience, agrees to mentor his own mentor's son not long after killing said Mentor the Elder.
Yes, that sounds confusing, but it's not half as puzzling as why Donald Sutherland agreed to participate in director Simon West's remake. As that elder mentor, Harry McKenna, Sutherland brings the only spark of honest emotion to a relentlessly uninvolving film. Ben Foster's Steve McKenna, the kid who apparently needs only one montage of automatic weapons training to become an elite killing machine, is equally adrift, although at least his character has a reason to be vacant.
West (Con Air) saturates his imagery in a sickly stew of rotten-egg yellows and oranges, making a mediocre picture downright repellent at times. His penchant for blowing things up is in fine form, but there's really no clear reason why a remake was warranted or why Statham, so exquisitely calibrated to action-comedy weirdness, would sign on to rehash the (far better) past glories of humorless 1970s action flicks.