July 31, 2011

Queer Review: The Mechanic (2011)

The Mechanic
Director: Simon West
Writers: Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino.
Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Chase

Simon West's mediocre remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson revenge flick is yet another victim of Hollywood's incessant tendency to straighten out every script it can get it's grubby little hands on.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a mechanic or "hitman" who works for a company that carries out assassinations for large amounts of money. When given the job of killing Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), Bishop's friend and mentor, Bishop is at first reluctant but relents when faced with evidence of McKenna's duplicity. After McKenna is dead, Bishop is approached by Steve (Ben Foster), McKenna's estranged son, who wishes to learn how to be a mechanic in order to avenge his father's death. Against his better judgment, Bishop agrees and Steve is soon on his way to discovering who really killed his father.

The Queering
I had read one movie commentator who claimed that Ben Foster's character, Steve, was gay. I also knew that Lewis John Carlino had originally intended his main characters to also be gay, but that element was cut out of the original thanks to studio pressure. I even had seen a preview that had a line from Steve where he discussed the attractiveness of another male character. All in all, I was therefore dead certain as I sat down to watch this version of The Mechanic, that at least one of the character's was going to have their original sexuality brought back.

Unfortunately, I ended up being extremely disappointed. Not only were there references to Steve having a girlfriend, but he is also shown sleeping with a female prostitute. Furthermore, there is nothing in the movie itself that even hints at Steve being attracted to other men.

Then there is issue with the gay rival assassin who becomes Steve's first kill, of which I have conflicting opinions about. While I did not take offence at the gay assassin being portrayed as a brutal thug (he is ultimately no more amoral then the two protagonists) but I did not like having yet another movie that takes visceral pleasure from the murder of a gay man.

The Mechanic suffers from other problems as well. The biggest of which is the editing succumbs to the unfortunately trendy style of "who the hell even knows any more that shots can last more then a second during actions sequences"? Interestingly enough, the over-editing makes the most interesting element of the whole movie the complex psychological relationship between leads. I will be the first one to act all surprised that interesting characterization is the best element of a movie starring Jason Statham.

Speaking of Statham, he falls into the same class of macho actors as John Wayne, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who arguably were never "great" actors but whose screen presence and reputation could generate the necessary to drive even the most ridiculous plots forward. What I'm saying is that Statham gives pretty much the performance that one would expect from him. Foster does a more interesting job, creating a psychologically complicated individual intent on avenging the murder of his dad, even though Steve appears to have more hate then love in his heart for the one who fathered him.

There is little else worth talking about The Mechanic. As I said, this is a mediocre motion picture whose strongest element is interesting relationship that develops between the two leads. Nothing more to see here.

For fans of Jason Statham's previous action flicks, little harm will come from viewing this. However, if the action sequences had been better presented and the gay content from Carlino's original screenplay restored, I would have been more comfortable giving this a more hearty recommendation. As it is, this is one movie in need of a few repairs.

The Rating


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