|A different take on auto repair|
Arthur Bishop (Bronson/Statham) is a “mechanic,” a hitman who specializes in jobs that need to look natural. He is assigned to kill Harry McKenna (Keenan Wynn/Donald Sutherland), his company contact and friend. He dutifully carries out the job. At Harry’s funeral, Bishop meets his son Steve and they strike up a friendship of sorts. Steve doesn’t know about Bishop’s involvement in his father’s death and Bishop takes on Steve as an apprentice. Steve’s first job goes down messy and draws the attention of their boss. To make amends, they are offered a job that must be done quickly. Bishop doesn’t like the prospect of a rush job, but he reluctantly accepts. At this point the two films diverge somewhat…
In the original, Bishop returns home to tell Steve about the assignment. Instead, he discovers among Steve’s things a dossier on himself similar to the ones made up for other targets. Bishop brings Steve along anyway, but the rush job turns out to be a setup. The two escape and kill off the team of assassins. As the two are preparing to return home, Steve poisons Bishop. As he is dying, Bishop asks if this was because he killed Steve’s father. Steve reveals that he still had no idea. He essentially explains that he wanted to prove himself to be a superior killer than his mentor.
In the remake, Bishop and Steve run into complications on the rush job and must shoot their way out. They split up. Bishop encounters another mechanic who was supposedly dead and learns that he had been tricked into killing Harry as part of a cover up. With the secret out, a hit is ordered on Bishop and Steve. While the two are making preparations to take out their boss, Steve discovers his father’s prized gun among Bishop’s things, but keeps it secret. After they kill their boss, Bishop glimpses the gun in Steve’s jacket, but stays silent. They stop to refuel and Steve takes the opportunity to kill Bishop, blowing up the vehicle along with the gas station.
In both versions, Steve returns to Bishop’s house alone and immediately starts going through his things, making himself at home. Steve climbs into his/Bishop’s car and starts the engine. He then notices a note that in part reads, “Steve, if you're reading this then you're dead!” The car explodes. In the remake only, a security video from the gas station reveals that Bishop escaped just before the gas station exploded.
Fixing it up
I had always heard that Bronson’s Mechanic was somewhat of a classic, so I was surprised to find it so underwhelming. It suffers from very uneven pacing. Between long, dull photographic studies and equally overextended action sequences, little time is left to actually develop characters or tell a story. Indeed, the film is famous for having no dialogue for the first 16 minutes as Bronson meticulously sets up a hit. The same thing could have been achieved in a third of the time while still telling us everything we needed to know about his carful nature.
Compare that to Statham’s Mechanic, where he delivers his first hit by hiding at the bottom of a private swimming pool and dragging his target underwater to simulate a drowning. This is achieved in mere moments and, along with his carefully choreographed escape, reveals everything we need to know about his creative and fastidious methods. His character is further developed by having more time to interact with the other players and show that he isn’t simply the killing machine that he is described as.
|Plus, the remake has |
Donald Sutherland. Bonus!
The remake also adds a level of intrigue by reimagining Steve as a much more likable character. Instead of being a haughty rich boy, he is a lovable loser in need of direction. Most of this is scripting, but Foster has a knack for drawing sympathy. Because of this, the audience is left somewhat unsure of who to root for, knowing that in the web of betrayal both of our heroes have betrayed eachother. Both have a cocky streak that proves their ultimate undoing, but it is very dissatisfying that Bronson should be offed by his apprentice when he is supposed to be this world-class hitman. The remake fixes this.
In spite of its shortcomings, the original Mechanic is a film that was deserving of a remake and all its best parts were preserved. Arthur Bishop is a realistic character and his devotion to planning and preparation grounds even his most daring exploits. Not many points can be doled out for originality in either case, but in spite of criticisms that the films are mere action flicks, both take an interesting look at timeless and universal themes of legacy, loyalty and betrayal. The attempt to do those themes some more justice is what inspires a very worthwhile remake.