I normally wouldn’t cover a reasonably big cinema release like this, but it does feature one of my favourite actors, and it’s totally a cheap-n-sleazy B-movie at heart, so here you go. Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, and Tommy Lee Jones – there’s too much acting ability and charisma for this site!
I really enjoyed the first “Mechanic” movie, from 1972. Before Michael Winner turned into a joke, Bronson at his impassive best as “Arthur” the assassin, and a pre-alcoholism Jan Michael Vincent as his protege, it was a cold and very well judged thriller, let down a little by its ending I thought, but still an extremely solid effort (it was originally going to be an explicitly gay movie, directed by Monte Hellman, but no-one would fund it and actors pulled out – there’s still a pretty strong subtext, though). Then there was the 2011 remake, with Jason Statham as the Mechanic, and Ben Foster as his young associate – subtext replaced with a scene where Foster allows himself to be seduced by a male gangster in order to kill him. Simon West, whose stuff I almost always like, directed.
The thing with the first “Mechanic” is that Arthur makes his kills look like accidents because he’s got pride in his work, and because just straight up murdering people is almost too easy. By the time of “Resurrection”, it’s been elevated to the level of fetish. The basic gist of things is, Arthur has been living in Rio under an assumed name since the events of part 1, until Crain – an old associate – finds him and gets him to commit three murders, making them all look like accidents. Why? Absolutely no reason whatsoever, other than this is a “Mechanic” movie. They’re all definitely bad guys, though, so you don’t have as much of that pesky moral quandary stuff.
The Stath wants no part of any more killing, beating the crap out of the first group who try and persuade him; until he goes to hide with his friend Mei (Michelle Yeoh) on her tropical island, and then gets tracked down again. I like how, in a post-Snowden world, they spend no time at all on the explanation, just assuming the viewer will know how impossible it is to truly disappear any more. This time it’s Gina (Jessica Alba) trying to persuade him, but she’s doing it under duress too, as she runs a refuge for child victims of human trafficking and Crain has threatened to kill / traffic them all unless she does this for him. Arthur and Gina fall in love, sort of believably (I mean, they’re both gorgeous), and then she gets kidnapped by Crain again, which finally forces Arthur out of retirement.
It’s here that “Resurrection” effectively becomes the computer game “Hitman” for about 45 minutes. Shave Jason Statham’s head and put him in the iconic outfit, and he’d be a far better choice for the role than either of the guys who played him before; the whole thing of trying to make murder look like an accident dovetails with the game perfectly, too. Perhaps this started off as a rejected script for the most recent “Hitman” movie? Anyway, we see Arthur do his thing in a variety of locations – Thai jail, weird pool with a glass bottom that sticks out over the side of a skyscraper, and finally an old Soviet-era monument in Bulgaria. There’s setup where you see his cool gadgets, a little establishing shot of the area, and then he goes to work. It’s not to say any of this is bad – the scene where he eliminates the guy in the pool is absolutely fantastic – but it’s very strongly reminiscent of how the game operates, more so than any of the movies based on the game.
Tommy Lee Jones is the coolest of all the assassination targets, and one gets the feeling he enjoyed the chance to play a rather camped-up OTT character; and Alba brings more to the token female role than most would have done. Sam Hazeldine as Crain is villain-by-the-numbers; but what about our dear friend The Stath? Even his biggest fan (me) would struggle to see a ton of difference between Arthur and Frank from the “Transporter” trilogy – both aesthetes in a world of death, both gruff and no-nonsense, both amazing martial artists. Perhaps Arthur smiles more and kills more freely? If you like Jason Statham in any other action movie, then you’ll certainly like him in this. Talking of which, I’d have loved to see more “Parker” movies, the other potential franchise that he tried to launch, but that’s a complaint for another time. In the “Mechanic” series, you get a perfect example of bad-ass-dom, and that’s just fine.
I said up top that this is a cheap-n-sleazy B-movie at heart. You’ve got the love interest who, for once, isn’t about to secretly betray the hero; a wacky, OTT villain type; a variety of colourful locations; and plenty of extremely good fight and stunt scenes. But you’ve also got some weird cost-cutting, like the extremely obvious green-screen in some scenes; I mean, you’ve already spent millions of dollars, why not pony up a little bit more to make them look realistic? Or just film in those locations for a bit? Or go the other way and make them obviously unrealistic? I don’t know, I’m not a producer.
It’s a lot of fun, but the one segment that pissed me off was the Thai prison one. Now, he’s been told to make it look like an accident, but when he does the job, he leaves the victim posed in front of a shrine twisted in a weird way that no-one would ever do to themselves, then runs past a bunch of people who could identify him, then blows up the wall of the prison to escape. They even have his photo! And the whole thing about “you have 36 hours to do this” – why? There’s no reason for the constraint, it’s not like the crime empire won’t still be there to take over if Arthur has a week to do each job. Anyway.
It’s another very solid, fun, fast-paced action movie for our man Statham. A rental is highly recommended.
Rating: thumbs up