I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Mechanic: Resurrection

tn_mechanicrJason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop, his character from the 2011 Simon West film THE MECHANIC. He is not the type of mechanic who might help out his driving characters in THE TRANSPORTER, THE ITALIAN JOB, DEATH RACE and FURIOUS 7. He’s the type that is a euphemism for an assassin-for-hire, as seen in the original THE MECHANIC starring Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent.

Having faked his death at the end of the first one, we find Bishop living an appealing lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro. (Do the people of Rio ever get tired of Hollywood helicopters swooping around that Jesus statue?) He’s now known as Otto Santos and he lives on a nice houseboat where he sits and enjoys his espresso and reconstituted vinyl collection.

But one day a woman comes up to him, knows who he is, says her employer wants him to kill three people. Arthur “Otto ‘The Mechanic’ Santos” Bishop is no chump, though, so he fights her and her henchmen, escapes in spectacular (though blatantly green-screeny) fashion, and gets ready for a fight. There’s almost a running joke about how many stashes he has around. When he self destructs his boat he goes right to a shipping container with guns and passports. When he resurfaces at his old hut on a picturesque beach in Thailand there’s another stash under the floorboards. I bet if you dropped him off at any random spot in the North Pole it would turn out he hid some guns under the ice there years ago.

I have a couple of questions about these caches, though. Does he go around refreshing them all the time, or does he ever get to them and find out that the laptop there has an old operating system that doesn’t work with the software he needs? Also, does he have records and turntables stashed around too, or does he have to re-buy all the good ones every time he blows up his shit?

mp_mechanicrAnyway, the place in Thailand is, I assume, one of dozens of safe houses he has. This one is maintained by his old friend Mei (the one and only Michelle Yeoh). You assume, and probly hope, that she’s an old assassin or asset of some kind, but she’s actually someone who is loyal to him because he helped her get out of an abusive relationship long ago. It’s still good sequel shit, though, because it’s cool to see the implied backstories of the friends he has all over the world. And I don’t think she’s a damsel in distress. She’s a respected friend who pushes against his reluctance to help Gina (Jessica Alba, MACHETE), another woman in a bad situation. As in THE EXPENDABLES, Statham finds himself embodying the male fantasy of being the badass dude who confronts a woman-beater.

Gina turns out to be mixed up in this too, forced to find Bishop for that same guy that’s trying to hire him. She has an action hero backstory of her own: she’s a disillusioned former special ops soldier who runs a shelter for sex trafficking escapees in Cambodia. (I’m not sure why she couldn’t have been the badass dude who confronts the woman-beater, then, but whatever.) The two of them do the ol’ pretending-to-be-a-couple-to-blend-in-but-they-start-falling-for-each-other routine. Alba’s acting and screen presence have improved over the years, and the chemistry works, but this section maybe goes on a little longer than it should before we get to the real novelty of a MECHANIC movie, when he finally gives in and accepts three assassination missions.

I guess it makes sense that he’s called a mechanic (or allegedly called one, since they don’t ever call him one in this movie), because to do this job he needs the skills of a ride-pimper on a reality show. He has to have incredible problem solving creativity, has to obtain the right materials and use his scientific know-how to prepare all the tools he’ll need to execute his complex plans. We see him mixing, molding, disguising weapons, disguising himself, taking on new identities. He has to assassinate a guy in a prison, a guy in a penthouse, a guy in a bunker. He has to infiltrate, gain trust, escape, climb, rappel, dive (Statham’s trademark), and make it all look like an accident. And meanwhile he has to figure out a way to outsmart and defeat the people making him do it.

One of the guys he’s supposed to kill is Max Adams (Tommy Lee Jones, UNDER SIEGE). It’s about as small of a role as I assumed before I saw the trailer that made it look like he was a co-star, but he seems to be having fun playing a dumb asshole with a soul patch and round glasses. The main villain is Craine (Sam Hazeldine, THE RAVEN, THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY), who we learn goes way back with Bishop, but he’s not the type of villain that’s gonna have a cool fight against the hero, nor is he the kind of villain that you remember something he said or could pick out in a lineup by the time the end credits are over. To be fair, I don’t remember who the villains were in either of the other THE MECHANICs either.

I wonder if he ever misses being Otto Santos? It seems like it was pretty cool being Otto Santos.

There’s not a huge difference between The Mechanic and The Transporter or some of Statham’s other characters, but I don’t have a problem with that. I love Statham’s more adventurous movies (BLITZ, SAFE, REDEMPTION, WILD CARD), but there’s also a place for these ones where he’s no more or less than an ultimate specimen of hyper-capable masculinity, a dude who can fight or kill anyone and confidently escape from any corner he’s ever trapped in. A man who is macho but with a code, rough but smooth. Some of the men watch it kinda wishing they could be him, and some of the women watch it pretty happy that he hasn’t pulled his diving suit up yet as he walks to the end of the dock. (Alba’s body receives more ogling, though. When she’s underwater the camera provides a clearer, more thorough look at her than we get of any action thing that happens in either MECHANIC movie.)

Bishop is also very worldly. In this movie he travels between Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Bulgaria and Cambodia. And he always knows where to go, who to talk to, what to do. At one point he knows to use a product I didn’t know was real: shark repellent cream. That would make a really good swag item for this movie. But the fact that they hype up an island surrounded by sharks and then never show any sharks shows you that they are not here to give us their 100%.

acr_mechanicrThey in this case they means director Dennis Gansel (GIRLS ON TOP, BEFORE THE FALL, WE ARE THE NIGHT) and writers Philip Shelby (author of Covert-One: The Cassandra Compact with Robert Ludlum), Tony Mosher and Brian Pittman. Second unit director was Vic Armstrong (TOTAL RECALL, DOUBLE IMPACT, THE PHANTOM), fight coordinator was J.J. Perry (UNDISPUTED II, HAYWIRE), but Allan Poppleton (Statham’s stunt double in KILLER ELITE and THE EXPENDABLES 2) is also credited for both of those jobs. I don’t know anything about Popwell but unfortunately the action scenes, being shot in the close up, not-always-sure-what-exactly-I’m-looking-at-here style of part 1, don’t display the signature energy of the other two legends.

I like the original Charles Bronson THE MECHANIC and I also liked the Statham version. My complaints of the first Statham one were the crappiness of the action scenes and one weird violation of the action movie code where they established that a character had a ring from a martial arts championship, then only used it as a clue to the mystery and not to set up a duel. For part 2 the action scenes are probly even worse, but there’s not as egregious of a failed setup. Unless you count having Michelle Yeoh in the movie as a non-combatant. Also I thought I saw a rack of samurai swords in the bad guy’s boat that were never used, but most people wouldn’t notice that. I am hypersensitive about decorative sword setups. That’s just how I am.

This was a highly anticipated movie for me. I like going to see a mid-budget late August action star vehicle, as do the rest of the moderately sized crowd at the matinee on Friday. THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION delivers an enjoyable enough character and story to fulfill the requirements, but it should be better. The story, minus the mentorship/betrayal aspect of the first one, is a little weaker, and it doesn’t really raise the level of absurdity to try to top the first one, like THE TRANSPORTER 2 or (even though I’m not a fan of it) CRANK 2 did. None of this would matter if they simply improved on the crappy post-action of the first one, but it’s not that kind of party. During fights we rarely see Statham’s whole body in frame, and he even headbutts a guy when we can only see his chin and below. It’s bullshit. We need to have action sequences again, movie makers. Didn’t you get the memo? I believe it was signed JOHN WICK. I know you guys can get on board. I believe in you. Let’s try to get this straightened out before THE MECHANIC LIVES AGAIN.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 at 10:51 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “The Mechanic: Resurrection”

  1. Aw man, hearing how Gansel (who, as I mentioned somewhere else, is some kind of high profile director over here) fucks up in the action department, really breaks my heart. In all interviews (not just for this movie), he comes across as a guy, who is smart enough to recognize the importance of a well shit and edited action scene.

  2. Until this past weekend I had no idea Michelle Yeoh was in this one that got me kind of excited and was making plans to go see this one now with word that it is post-action…

    I feel I should do my part to watch these “out-dated” (by mainstream standards anyway) mid-tier action vehicles but if they are not going to show the action and it is similar to it’s predecessor, then I’m feeling like being the villain here and wait for rental (from the library).

  3. Saw this over the weekend. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as SAFE or HOMEFRONT, but I wasn’t expecting it to be Elvis-movie lazy, either. It really felt like nobody involved in the making gave a shit. As you briefly mentioned, there are numerous blatant green-screens used to put exotic backdrops (Rio, Sydney) behind Statham’s head; worse, the script sets up the big action items with narration that sounds like a video game level is being explained to you (“in order to break into the impregnable prison and kill Villain X, here’s what you’re going to have to do”), and Tommy Lee Jones (who’s in it for maybe five minutes, cumulatively) looks like he’s calculating his salary into an hourly rate in his head the whole time. (I felt actively cheated by Michelle Yeoh’s no-punching, no-kicking presence, too.) But honestly, the whole shark repellent thing probably pissed me off the most. We hear that the prison/fortress is surrounded by shark-infested waters. Statham is seen buying shark repellent ointment, and smuggling it into the prison/fortress. When he’s about to escape, he takes off his shirt and slathers his entire torso in the shark repellent. He then dives into the water. At that moment, aren’t you expecting to see him fight a shark? Of course you are. What do you get? A single CGI shark drifting in the gloom behind a swimming Statham, and never coming anywhere near him. For that alone, I should have demanded a refund.

  4. Maybe the shark repellent worked a little too well.

  5. Thanks guys for not making fun of the typo in my first post on here. Didn’t notice it until now. (Or fuck you for not reading what I write, even if it’s nothing important anyway.)

  6. Jason Statham really deserves better. He’s done a great job of creating a niche for himself, and although he’s no Tom Cruise, he’s able to drive a film because of his presence on the marquee. But it seems like only about a quarter of all directors he’s worked with actually know how to film an action movie. It’s even more frustrating when you get a unique and interesting script like Homefront where the action scenes are cut into oblivion.

  7. This is too bad. The first one was really solid, and frankly didn’t feel like it needed a sequel. I like Statham a lot, but in many respects he’s a man out of time, and I don’t think there is the studio appetite for a classic badass like him. Probably the only reason this got into theaters was on the steam of the last one, but I don’t see Statham headlining many more theatrical action films in the future. One of the last of a dying breed.

    Tell me Tommy Lee is good in Criminal, because between this and Bourne, I’m questioning whether Tommy Lee Jones should still be counted on as a net plus for an action thriller, which is just another depressing observation about 2010s theatrical filmmaking. Oy.

  8. Tommy Lee is very good in CRIMINAL in a very un-Tommy Lee part.

  9. Phew. That’s good. I’m hangin by a thread, brother!

  10. Tommy Lee Jones with a soul patch, why?

  11. *sigh* Like most Stathams this will not play theatrically in the cultural backwater that is Sweden.

  12. Some people see Tommy Lee Jones with a soul patch and ask why, but I see Tommy Lee Jones with a soul patch and ask why not. Dressing up Jones like he’s going through some bizarre late life crisis is one of the reasons why I want to catch this movie in theaters. Also, I assume you don’t have to have seen the first Mechanic for the sequel to make sense.

  13. RBatty – You don’t need to see the first one, no.

    I liked this more than anyone here/else in the world, but I’m now wondering re: Vern’s ACR score: am I just so used to shakycam now that I’m no longer even noticing it that much?

    Holy shit, guys, I think I might need help.

  14. I don’t think shakycam is always bad. I think there is a use of shakycam to convey to the viewer that real-world physical conflict is messy and unpredictable, not clean. I would liken it to watching (American) football on TV vs. playing it (I’ve done both, badly). Watching it on TV, the moves, openings, etc. look plain, neatly laid out, obvious. Playing it, it feels like a chaotic melee where you could flattened at any time, and who the hell knows what’s beside, behind, or beyond your immediate line of sight. It’s roughly analogous to first- vs. third-person perspective, though the analogy is not isomorphic (since shakycam and non-shakycam action are both still third-person). For me, Bourne shakycam works. I actually like it. I’m not saying it’s a must have or the film can’t work without it (Bourne 1 and 4 were good and no shakycam). I’m just saying that it can be a legitimate stylistic choice, or it can be a lazy copout that amounts to jumping on the bandwagon or trying to paper over incompetent choreography or cinematography. Perhaps in the vast majority of cases it is the latter, but I personally think there exceptions–cases where shakycam works and is a reasoned choice. Of course, I enjoy nice clean, beautiful action shots, too.

  15. Shaky-cam has it’s uses… I know I’m in the minority, but I actually liked it’s use in Batman Begins because it effectively conveyed the “Wait, what the fuck just happened” nature pf some of the fights. While the training fights were classically covered so you could tell the exact geography, position, etc.

    The area where shaky-cam consistently annoys me is where it’s two people talking. yet the camera makes it seem like it’s happing during an earthquake in an attempt to give a static situation artificial kinetic energy.

    Also, the act of shooting something brutal in close-up, handheld, with fast cuts in order to disguise the act enough to avoid a ‘R’ rating will pretty much always get an eye-roll from me. Doing something for commerce rather than art will always rub me the wrong way. I can see how some people are completely okay with something like that, I’m just not one of them.

  16. I can’t stand the shaky establishing shot. What, your cameraman was so overwhelmed by the visceral reality of standing across the street from FBI headquarters or whatever that he couldn’t stand still for three seconds? Get the fuck outta here.

  17. People with full body tourettes need some form of employment.

  18. I can’t disagree more. I have watched countless football games and I’ve never seen the camera jerked around. There is no reason for shaky cam or quick cutting. Never.

  19. I’ve seen so much shakycam on TV shows and in films that I am convinced that software is used to inject it into video, perhaps with settings from “establishing shot (barely shaky)” to “fight scene (you will never know what’s going on).” There’s just no way the operators are jiggling those cameras around all day every day consistently.

    I’m more or less a shakycam absolutist like Sternshein, though I think things like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN show that shaky cameras can be used to good effect in certain rare circumstances. And like Jojo said, unless there is an earthquake, those circumstances never include dialogue scenes!

  20. Hey, whaddayaknow, this one was pretty decent. As mentioned the filmatism was just on the edge of acceptable but I can’t in good conscience downplay the achievements of the first movie in cinema history to pull off the tricky gondola-to-hang glider transition. The action scenes are full of imaginative beats like that, from the spinning lifeboat chandelier gag to the guy who got stabbed in the mouth with an M5. Even if the execution is never particularly spectacular, it’s good enough to get the point across.

    I would also like to praise Alba for managing to have semi-believable chemistry with Statham, who, for all his beefcake reputation, can have a hard time showing enough vulnerability to connect with the beautiful but often not that emotive leading ladies he gets cast opposite. It’s not a grand romance for the ages or anything, but considering her role in the story is so schematic that the screenwriter actually lampshades how it’s all going to play out 20 minutes into the movie, I thought their scenes worked. They actually crack a few smiles together. It’s cute.

  21. Sternshein, I think you missed my point, which was not related to the use of shakycam in televised football coverage (which I did not claim was a thing). I was making a loose analogy to underscore the point that very clean, moderately paced action choreography (even embellished by slow-mo shots or successive multi-angle cuts of the same kick/punch) can sometimes make things seem too clean and easy, whereas there are occasions when I believe that the partial incomprehensibility (viz., things happening too fast and ugly for you to even know what the hell is going on) of shakycam can actually serve a narrative or tonal purpose. I agree that shakycam is generally overdone and should not necessarily be the default, but I also think there is more nuance to it than “death to shakycam, always!!” It can be done better or worse shakycam, and there are more and less-justified uses of it.

  22. I dug how TLJ’s character is a big time collector of Communist-era artwork/paraphernalia and even retrofitted an old Soviet submarine base into his own whacked out mansion. I just wish he was in the movie more, but at least he got to work for less than a week, get a nice check, and marquee billing.

    This was OK, like most Statham vehicles. And yet this fact that he’s back to doing the sort of actioneer films that he (masterfully) took a deconstructive piss take on and come back with ease, like that old reliable pair of tennis shoes….its a bizarre form of comfort food for me for whatever the hell.

    Also one question: he has to whack the African warlord and make it look like an accident, right? Yet remember he props his corpse up to set up a COMMANDO-esque joke: “He’s dead tired” becomes “he’s praying”…except who will discover that body and think “yup no foul play at all!”

  23. Didn’t he have a pipe in his hand? I think it was supposed to look like he ODed from smoking Generic Powdered Narcotic (GPM) instead of being forcefed the drug soup Statham hastily mixed up.

    You know now that you mention it this scene might not make a shitload of sense.

  24. I can’t believe I fucked up my own fake acronym. That’s embarassing.

  25. JoJo and Majestyk. Good shakycam points. I think you’re both on steady ground there (rimshot). However, I do think shakycam or at least hand-heldy-but-not-too-shaky cam can be used to communicate a more psychological (non-“kinetic”) energy (anxiety, anger). This can arguably could be more effective than having a more staid, steady shot which tends to undercut the emotion, making things seem more stable and under control than they really are from the subject’s point of view. Whether it’s kinetic energy (a Bourne fight) or non-kinetic psychological energy (Brian Cox freaking out because he knows Joan Allen is pulling on the wrong thread), I think Greengrass’s use of shakycam is designed to communicate that sense that events are unfolding quickly and unpredictably–that wham-bam, wait a minute, what the hell’s happening here? state of consciousness. His style is to be more immersive like that. In the Greengrass Bourne films, the cinematography induces a quasi-hypnotic, vertiginous state, which works in tandem with other elements–the premise, pacing, dialogue, and timeline of objective events/scenes–to keep up the momentum and to keep you off balance. They are mutually reinforcing ingredients that serve the filmmaker’s purpose, and I think is consistent
    with the show-don’t-tell philosophy (or, at least, the don’t-just-tell-also-show philosophy).

    This approach is not unlike various other visual or sonic storytelling devices, like use of score or editing or montage or whatever. I think of all the gimmicks Hitchcock uses in that scene in Psycho where Marion Crane is ditching town with that guy’s money: we don’t need much dialogue (the various dialogue snippets to reflect her inner monologue could just as easily have been stripped from the scene)–just her changing expressions, the score, the windshield wipers and various other little nuances are enough to communicate to us a sense that she’s freaking out.

    Another case of simple visual storytelling is the final Bourne-Asset confrontation in Jason Bourne (which is a decent but disappointing film). This scene is supposed to be far more personal than any previous Bourne hand-to-hand combat scene, and it does indeed feel more personal. It’s somehow uglier, messier, more ruthless, more predatory, meaner. As it’s supposed to. Now, I think Vern was pretty underwhelmed by that scene, but for me it is an illustration that Greengrass is in command of how he orchestrates and stages the scenes–he’s trying to evoke a particular set of feelings, and for me at least, it’s working.

    Now, again, I’m conceding the point that shakycam absolutely is at cross-purposes with the goal of clean, crisp action. But sometimes that’s the point–to be messy and chaotic, instead of steady and clean, to give you enough of a sense of what has happened that you’re tracking the gist (Bourne’s handing this dude a beatdown) but to have it be sufficiently blurry and unruly as to add that element of bewilderment, uncertainty, and felt stakes. Even though, of course, we know Bourne’s gonna pull out of this one okay just as sure as Velma and Scooby are going to expose their latest spectre as a disgruntled employee in a mask.

  26. It’s cool, Mr. Maj. We all make mistakes. But it would be cooler if this site switched to Disqus, where you can edit your post and actually reply to one another. I guess this is keeping with Vern’s aesthetics, tho. I’ll never know for sure, tho, coz I’m never visiting this review again. Unless I somehow see this movie, which is unlikely since I never saw the original or remake.

  27. RE: Greengrass
    At least initially; his use of shaky-cam was a entirely different animal. I remember watching Bloody Sunday and having to keep reminding myself that I was watching a dramatization, and not the actual events as they went down. So yeah, I would call that an effective use of shaky-cam.

    Of course. he then degenerated into the Greengrass we know today. But at the beginning, he wasn’t just some wanna-be Michael Bay sans dolly track or a steady-cam.

  28. I still don’t agree at all with you Skani you make a good argument. I would say that shaky cam isn’t the issue so much that it’s the editing. Raid 2 has a ton of shaky cam but the editing is fluid so you can always see what’s happening. Too many of these terrible fights and action scenes in these movies is the insane amount of quick cutting combined with the camera shaking around.

  29. All fair points. Clearly, I get off on being something of a contrarian, here. I do agree that more often than not shakycam is a lazy man’s crutch or just creatively bankrupt aping of what’s in vogue.

  30. Crushinator Jones

    September 1st, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    The takeaway, to me, is that if you’re going to use shaky-cam you better get everything else about the scene right – establish the geography, frame the action correctly, all that good stuff.

    By destabilizing the actual image you’re making the other elements of the composition work that much harder.

  31. Shakycam makes sense for scenes depicting a character who is in unfamiliar circumstances and doesn’t fully understand what’s happening. The viewer’s experience and the character’s experience are then equally disorienting. It makes no sense to use it in a scene with a character who is never confused or disoriented at any time, as in your average Statham or Stathamatic film. He or she wouldn’t be able to see the world the way the viewer sees it and be able to accomplish what he or she accomplishes. There’s a disconnect. It’s not necessarily a problem with the technique, it’s just that the technique doesn’t fit the material.

    I don’t think that’s a huge problem with MECHAN2C. It’s a little shakier and choppier than I’d prefer but I had no problem telling what was going on.

  32. I always point to Batman Begins as how to both properly and improperly use shakycam. In the scene at the docks when Batman’s dropping down and abducting criminals, shakycam makes sense because the scene occurs from the perspective of the criminals. Nolan’s highlighting how disorientated they are.

    But towards the end of the film when Batman is fighting ninjas, Nolan’s still using his goddamn shakycam technique. It’s almost as if he thinks people aren’t going to be interested in seeing Batman fight ninjas. Fucking ninjas!

  33. Crushinator Jones

    September 2nd, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Those were awesome ninjas, too.

  34. I watched both Mechanics this week and the action scenes in the first one were a million times worse than the second. Way more close up and way more cuts/second and ver distracting. The second one I enjoyed a lot more. I think my favourite bit was the spinning lifeboat mentioned above.

    At the other end of the spectrum – I’ve also been watching season 5 of arrow. This show can be terrible at times but the action scenes are always great with nice long clear takes.

  35. With notable big screen examples, television tends to do a much better job filming their action scenes.

  36. Holy crap – dolph lundgren is on this season of arrow!

    Also, the crossover week with supergirl/arrow/flash/legends was reaaly great. It reaaly boggles my mind how much better the dc tv shows are compared to the movies right now.

  37. The new film from the director of JASON STATHAM IS THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mjnbk6_0Rg

    (just posting it here because it’s a bit amusing how Gansel follows up his Hollywood actionfilm debut, although of course for a German director who still works in Germany it’s inevitable.)

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>