The Mechanic (1972)


Year 1972

Charles Bronson as   Arthur Bishop
Jan-Michael Vincent   as Steve McKenna
Keenan Wynn as Harry McKenna
Linda Ridgeway as   Louise
Frank DeKova as   The Man
 
Director - Michael Winner
Screenwriter - Lewis John Carlino
Story - Lewis John Carlino  

The Mechanic, also released as Killer of Killers somewhere, is a pretty straight forward movie. An elite assassin takes jobs on consignment. He does things his way and always gets results. But the stress is starting to get to him so he takes on an "associate". He finds that the associate is keeping a file on him the same way that he keeps a file on his intended targets. Who live and who dies are the big questions.

When you say it like that, it doesn't seem like much. But in actuality the simple plot is well constructed. There are no wasted scenes, for example. Each scene in the movie has a point which serves to either drive along the plot or provide an insight into the character of Arthur Bishop (Bronson).

You may also wonder whether Charles Bronson can carry the movie as the star. He's laconic and stone-faced, right? Well, his character is laconic, so that works. Plus Charles Bronson is not stone-faced, he's subtle. A wry grin here, a sigh there, a brush of a hand somewhere else, and you're completely with him. His lack of expansive dialog or animation makes him more convincing than say, Jason Statham.

For a few of the scenes, let me mention his first kill at the beginning of the movie. He took a lot of time and went through a lot of trouble for the kill. Yet, you can see where any police investigation could not state that a murder was committed.

Or his meeting with the prostitute (Jill Ireland) shows how lonely Bishop really is. Or his anxiety attack at the aquarium reinforces his need to quit being a loner. Or the martial arts competition between the old master and the newcomer who cheats symbolizes the relationship between Bishop and his protégé Steve McKenna (Vincent).

It's all low-key and very poignant.

Some of the acting, like Bronson's, is perfect for the movie. Frank DeKova, in a small role as The Man who sends Bishop his orders, is also top-notch. (Frank DeKova. He was Chief Wild Eagle of the Hekawis, as in "Where the heck ah we?," in F Troop.) Keenan Wynn, in another small role, also does a great job. In fact, even Jill Ireland, thanks to only a few minutes of screen time, is nearly good enough for her role in this movie.

Jan-Michael Vincent alternates between being wooden and being bored but he manages to do enough to be disliked by the audience. He's the real villain after all. One important role that should've been recast with someone with acting ability is that of Louise. Linda Ridgeway is just too ethereal (to use a nice word for vapid).

Besides the occasional bad acting, there are some things wrong with this movie. A couple of chase scenes go on too long. Yet they each have their point so it's a question of duration rather than necessity.

How does this compare to the 2011 remake? The original stressed realism a bit more. No one jumped with super-human skill or rolled like an athlete thanks to CGI. Bronson trained constantly, which is necessary, I think. And of course, since this is the new millenium, the 2011 remake needed to be "gayed up" to make it trendy. Maybe it was a good choice, but I thought it was excessively contrived.

I really didn't like the Steve McKenna character in the remake. I didn't like the original Steve McKenna either, but his personality fit closer to being that of someone that Bishop would take under his wing.

Then there's the ending. The original movie told the story of Arthur Bishop at a point of crisis. There was closure. The remake told the story of the greed of Hollywood and how someone smelled "franchise".

That's not to say that the remake isn't enjoyable. It is and I recommend it. It's just not as well constructed as the original.

No nudity, profanity, or blasphemy. Chick flick potential is below average. If you like Bronson, don't miss this film.


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