The Mechanic is a typical Jason Statham movie in almost every conceivable way. It contains a few capably executed explosions, but nothing that’s likely to end up on anybody’s best fireballs of the year list. It stages a few entertaining fight scenes, involving both gunplay and fisticuffs, but the action never reaches a level that’ll impress anyone who’s seen a Bourne film. There’s a capable enough plot, containing typical hit man movie twists and turns, stuff you’ve mostly seen before but done in a way that’s not unduly boring. It’s all completely capable action movie fodder, but never much more than capable.
Like nearly all of Statham’s movies The Mechanic doesn’t have particularly lofty aspirations. It sets out to be a three star movie, it is a three star movie, and everyone involved seems content to go home with those three out of five stars inscribed on the movie poster. There’s something to be said for knowing what you are and then being whatever that is. Still, I almost think I’d rather watch something which tries and fails, rather than throwing money at something which never intended to do any more than just enough to get by.
The material’s not really there, though, for a movie with loftier ambitions than the ones The Mechanic achieves. It’s a simple, straightforward story which makes a half-hearted attempt at thriller-like complexity. Statham plays Arthur, a professional assassin who, for spoiler reasons, decides to take the son of a friend under his wing and teach him the assassin business. Ben Foster plays the son, Steve McKenna, and there’s some attempt to give him a sense of humor. This seems like a good idea since Jason Statham is the consummate, growling, straight man. No matter what movie he’s in, Statham isn’t big on talking, and that’s true here as he stalks across the screen glowering at bad guys while thinking only of ways to punch them in the head. So, pairing him with a talkative rogue could have worked pretty well, except you get the sense that Statham’s character would shoot a character like that in the head. Steve seems to get that vibe too and so after the all too occasional quip he’s careful to shut up before talking gets him dead.
So what you end up with isn’t so much a movie about an assassin and his student as a movie about two silent killers stalking through a nameless place shooting people in the chest. There are reasons, some of them involve revenge, but it’s hard to be sure if those reasons really matter to these two all that much. Sure, they’re careful only to shoot villains, but they shoot so many people that at some point the relative good or bad of Arthur and Steve, or of the people they’re killing, stops mattering to the audience. There’s a place late in the film when Steve suggests that Arthur’s only real motivation is a vague irritation over being outthought by the bad guys, and that fits, which means the audience doesn’t have much invested in what’s happening other than a nebulous desire to stick around long enough to see who Statham will kill next.
Luckily watching Statham kill people is infinitely entertaining and director Simon West brings enough style to the look and feel of the film that it remains interesting. It doesn’t hurt that the whole thing clocks in at a brisk 92 minutes, allowing the credits to roll before the audience gets bored and starts wishing for better than average. You won’t get better than average with The Mechanic, you’ll get exactly average. The Mechanic is content to be good enough, and if you’re ok with good enough, Statham’s latest fits the bill.