directed by Michael Winner
Perhaps what I love most about The Mechanic is the ease with which baddest of all men, Charles Bronson, slips into the role of a very unsympathetic character. What’s interesting about many of Bronson’s roles is that, though he is never the “good” guy, he is the guy for whom we are rooting. In Mr. Majestyk, he was the guy who stood up to corruption. In Death Wish and Once Upon a Time in the West, he was seeking revenge that we, as an audience, could respect in some way, or at the very least understand. Even in Hard Times, Bronson was just out there trying to make it, but he had a code, standards that made him worth invested emotion. There are other fine examples, but I highlight a few to illustrate how interesting Michael Winner’s tale of contract killing and “stepping outside it all and looking in” is from both a filmmaking point of view and a “Bronson as personae” point of view. Many films in the past and present have attempted this: telling a story about truly unsympathetic characters. Chistopher McQuarrie explicitly says this was his motive in writing the stellar film Way of the Gun, and some actors can shine when it comes to this. Bronson does it so matter of factly, so naturally in The Mechanic, that the result is chilling and uncomfortable for the viewer, especially if the viewer is a fan. I have never been a Jan-Michael Vincent fan, so the film falls apart in that respect, but the opening sequence of Bronson orchestrating a hit on an old man is out of sight. For those of you who do not know what this film is about, The Mechanic tells the story of lone assassin Arthur Bishop (Bronson) who takes an apprentice (Vincent) under his wing. When things start getting heavy, Bishop finds out he may have a contract out on his own life, and he can’t trust anyone. The film is great in every way except in the Jan-Michael Vincent category (remember Air Wolf? Unfortunately, so do I.), but Michael Winner gets a great performance out of Bronson in this one.
Note: There was a recent remake of this classic that I was too bothered by to watch. The only reason I have contemplated it, though, is due to how much I love Ben Foster and how much of an improvement over Vincent he surely is in the film. I don’t think it will counteract the dead weight of Jason Statham as Bishop, however. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy Statham in a few of his more mindless and entertaining gems, but Bronson sized shoes are too big for anyone to fill. Did anyone actually watch this remake? How was it?