Jason Statham is put on fine display in Simon West's remake of the Charles Bronson hired-killer thriller, The Mechanic.
We're treated to the Statham stare, the Statham strut. And the Statham sternum. Because Statham wouldn't be Statham without Statham shirtless.
It's a modestly effective but jaw-droppingly violent picture, beginning with promise but weaseling its way into unlike-ability.
It's also a fairly faithful remake, with Statham starring as Albert Bishop, a high-priced hit man who speaks in euphemisms.
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"I do assignments," he narrates. Those would be murders for hire. The film opens with a Bond-like gambit as a Colombian drug lord is drowned by a scuba-diving Bishop when the man takes a swim in the pool inside his fortress mansion. West sets the tone right off. The violence isn't going to be neat and pretty. Every hit will involve victims who struggle and die with a death rattle and who spatter their blood on the lens.
Bishop's handler is Harry, played with gruff professionalism by Donald Sutherland. But then their boss (Tony Goldwyn) orders Bishop to take out Harry, and things get complicated.
Bishop takes on Harry's "troubled son" as an apprentice. Steve is played by Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, The Messenger), a violent, drunken drifter whom Bishop trains out of guilt. As long as the kid doesn't figure out the teacher snuffed his dad, things'll go fine, right?
Steve learns life lessons — "It's stupid to kill someone when you have a motive," Bishop says. "Revenge is an emotion that can get you killed."
But when Bishop finally questions why he had to shoot Harry and becomes a target himself, he breaks his own rules and drags the kid along with him for his revenge spree.
The bad taste in the mouth starts with some of the victims. The script points Bishop and Steve at a hulking gay hit man: "He likes young boys." But if Steven, nearly 30, is his type, that's not exactly true. It just plays into homophobia.
A bloated, perverse TV preacher is another target. Casting middling actors in these roles doesn't help.
Michael Winner's plain-brown- wrapper 1972 film is known mostly for vivid killings and a twist ending. As will be the remake.