The Mechanic

The Mechanic is, sadly, not as nifty as the previews promise. It lumbers along trying to make the conflicts and fight scenes meaningful, but it doesn’t take the time to think the relationships through and this weakens the entire movie.

Even the always-accessible and charming Jason Statham can’t elevate this flick beyond something of a clinical, joyless actioner.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released January 28, 2011

Written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino

Directed by Simon West

Starring Mini Anden, Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, and Tony Goldwyn

Rated: R

*     *     *     *      *

Story

Arthur Bishop (Statham) is a professional, slick, cold assassin who can be relied on to do his hit jobs flawlessly- making them look accidental as needed or anything else the client requires. After he is deceived and does a job he regrets, he finds motivation to go after the people who had his mentor (Sutherland) killed.

But in the meantime, his mentor’s son, Steve (Foster) is a lackadaisical no-good punk who doesn’t seem to have any reason to feel sentimental about his dad. Nonetheless, he wants revenge and he convinces Bishop to train him as an assassin. Steve finds direction in this path and it turns out he isn’t bad at it, but his lack of polish, control, and focus dooms him to not being anywhere near as good as Bishop.

The two work together to do jobs here and there, and having Steve around throws Bishop’s routine off. Add to this the totally forgettable dalliances that Bishop has with Sarah, who it appears is a high-priced prostitute who has feelings for Bishop and for whom, if he had the ability to do so, Bishop my have feelings as well.

Soon Steve and Bishop home in on Dean (Goldwyn) as the big baddie. Dean is also the boss of the network that Bishop has been working for, so the guy has a lot of resources to dedicate to stopping Bishop and his protege.

This all leads to bullets flying, clever maneuvering, nifty fights, and the question of whether the servant has become the master.

Critique

The only things that The Mechanic has going for it are three good actors doing as best they can and some fun action scenes. But even those action scenes can’t top the opening sequence wherein Bishop assassinates a very bad man.

Statham is wonderful at the slow burn and we want to see his righteous rage burning in the set of his stubbled jaw and square chin, but there’s not enough emotional weight to the conflicts in The Mechanic, so Statham never really gets to slow burn. He does what he can, and Foster is great as a wily, vindictive punk, but the writers didn’t think nearly enough about what would drive these characters and how their relationships really would work. Goldwyn does a workaday job as a villain. It would be nice if he could find another role, though.

Despite some fairly solid action sequences and plenty of attempts to make the viewer care about what’s going on, those attempts fall flat because we are just never given a reason to root for, or hate, anyone. Thus, this is a flat action flick that only really engages when the fights get going.

Content warnings: salty language, some sexuality and nudity, plenty of heavy violence

Writing: 2.5          Acting: 4          Overall: 2.5

It doesn’t take a mechanic to know how to share this review and website. Do it. Karma will kiss you on the lips. No, not your sister’s roommate; the universe’s justice system!

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Parker

Parker is an altogether very Jason Statham movie. It does very little different from the other films he headlines, down to his inability to do convincing accents and the pain you can’t help but feel for the women he kisses with that sandpaper face. At least in Parker, he gets the tar beaten out of him and that affects his ability to function. 

Somewhat.

Long story short: If you like Jason Statham actioners, you’ll enjoy Parker, although you will probably reach the halfway point of the flick and kind of wish Statham was doing something different.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released January 25, 2013

Written by John J. McLaughlin, based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake

Directed by Taylor Hackford

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Patti LuPone, Emma Booth, Jason Statham, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte, Clifton Collins, Jr, and Bobby Cannavale

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Parker (Statham) is a thief with a code. He only steals from people who can afford it (although they would likely disagree) and he only hurts people who deserve it (again, they would likely disagree). He involves himself with a gang who have ties to a big-time mobster  in a job where they rob an amusement park. The leader of the gang is Melander (Chiklis), and Melander does not have the same code.

After Parker is betrayed by Melander and the rest of the gang, he is left for dead. Of course, he does not die and the people who help him show up in a sort of epilogue to the film, getting what is coming to them. Now Parker is out to get the nasty guys who betrayed him, retrieve his money, and end up living a life of ease and rest.

After tracking down Melander and the other baddies, Parker hatches a rather intricate plan to get back at them, while at the same time he has to dodge the big mobster’s attempts on his life and the life of his loved ones. In executing his plan, Parker comes in contact with Leslie Rodgers (Lopez), a hungry real estate agent who is fighting to catch a break and get ahead. She lives with her mother (LuPone) and is recovering from a crappy marriage and Parker gives her hope for her future.

Parker is smarter than everyone else, so we know he’s going to win. His plan is interesting and plays to his strengths. And the final showdown is as satisfactory as possible with what is essentially a B+ movie.

Critique

Parker is as formulaic as you might expect. The writing effort was spent on some creative and convoluted heist plots and some at times funny dialogue. Not enough writing effort was put into helping the audience care about Parker and his compatriots, much less on creating enough obstacles to make Parker’s journey more difficult.

Luckily, it’s still interesting and Statham is great as the guy with ice in his veins, sandpaper jaw, and the ability to keep going when beaten up. You kind of wonder why he has to create such an intricate plan when just getting a couple of explosive devices and some firearms seems like it would have been enough to beat the crew of baddies.

Of further benefit is that Jennifer Lopez seems to have actually learned to act, putting her skills on display in a convincing portrayal of a desperate yet ultimately naive real estate agent.

Also, the bad guys are sufficiently bad, endangering innocents with their carelessness and selfishness, so we want to see them get theirs.

Parker is no Transporter. It’s not fresh or eye-popping or slick. It’s gritty and formulaic, but it’s still not terrible. Parker gets beat up badly, although this is the entirety of the obstacles he faces. It doesn’t have interesting twists. It has gratuitous fleshiness. But it’s overall okay.

Content warning: some salty language and some gritty violence and a scene of sexuality

Writing: 2.5          Acting: 3.5           Overall: 2.5

Don’t ‘Parker’ (park here), get out there and share this review with all Jason Statham fans.

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The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 is an over the top splatter-fest populated by almost every iconic action hero of the last thirty to forty years, plus some others. In other roles, these actors are often charming and/or engaging.

In Expendables 2, they’re pretty much boring. It’s strange for a movie with so much action to be so incredibly uninteresting and bland. That said, there are a few effective moments, notably the meta, self-deprecating humor that sprinkles in.

Here’s the trailer:

The deets:

Released August 17, 2012

Written by Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, Ken Kaufman, David Agosto, and Dave Callaham

Directed by Simon West

Starring Nan Yu, Charisma Carpenter, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Arnold Schwarzzeneger, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, and Randy Couture.

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

The old crew is still working together, apparently as a principled mercenary force. Barney (Stallone) leads his crew on a daring rescue of a Chinese businessman, with Lee (Statham) there as what appears to be a co-captain of the squad. His team consists of Gunnar (Lundgren), Caesar (Crews), Toll Road (Couture), Yin Yang (Li), and Billy (Hemsworth). They break the businessman free, while at the same rescuing Trench (Arnie). Yin retires from the team at the end of this caper and Bill talks about leaving the team after the next job; he’s got a girl waiting for him.

Church (Willis) shows up and calls in the debt Barney owes him, getting the team to make a run to secure a package that is in the wreckage of a crashed plane. The team is joined by Church’s acquaintance, Maggie (Yu) for this job. But the baddies are there too and they kill one of Barney’s team in the process of making off with the package. The baddies are led by Vilain (Van Damme), who wants to make money off throwing the world into chaos.

Which, when thought through fully, makes zero sense.

So Vilain and Barney’s team are in a race to control a cache of weapons-grade plutonium. And the bullets are going to fly like crazy. And Chuck Norris shows up as a guy named Booker, although he really should have been called Deus Ex Machina. Explosive scenes ensue. Lots of bullets are fired. Plenty of blood splatters.

I bet you can predict how it all ends.

Critique

The Expendables 2 is predictable, exploding, intermittently entertaining stuff. Happily, the stars are smart enough to know that they need to be self-deprecating and that some meta-humor would be necessary to make the film more palatable. The problem is that, despite the whizz-bang action, it’s a boring movie. The characters aren’t authentic, and aren’t quirky or absurd enough to make it not matter that they’re not authentic. Every effort is made to keep things as complicated and explosive as possible.

It’s a generally joyless outing. There are moments of fun, but in general this movie doesn’t provide so much of a ride. Instead, it’s like a painting in motion– static characters posing through multiple different scenes.

There is plenty of inventive violence, to be sure. Moments are mined for clever quips as well. But it’s all somewhat lifeless because most of it seems like posturing rather than storytelling.

Not even a gamely trying Jean Claude Van Damme, or a very loose Jason Statham, could breathe any consistent life into this flick.

Content warnings: some language, nearly non-stop bloody violence

Writing: 2          Acting: 2          Overall: 2

Go an expend some energy by enthusiastically clicking on the icons to share this review with your social network. As always, do you agree or disagree? Feel free to argue in the comments!

PS: You know there’s something rotten in the state of Rotten Tomatoes when this movie has a higher fresh score than John Carter. Something very rotten.

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