The following blog spells out many things that could spoil these movies for delicate flowers. Assuming of course, they could be spoiled.
In “The Mechanic” Bishop is paid by a shadowy group to kill. The reasons these men are to be killed remain hidden and unnecessary to the plot. What is it to a hired gun why he was hired? “The Mechanic’s” strength parallels and mocks the flaws of Bronson’s infamous franchise “Death Wish.” In the “Death Wish” films there is a clumsy attempt to make the violence palatable because of the terrible and heinous acts, predominately to women, that occur early on. These crimes set off mild mannered architect Paul Kersey into brutal acts of vigilantism exacting the ultimate revenge on street thugs. The hook is the murder of his wife in the first film, his daughter in the second, the potential love interest in the third, his new girlfriend’s daughter in the fourth and finally the now prosaic threat his new (and different) fiance faces in “Death Wish 5.” The lesson being it is okay to shoot the thugs after they have shot your girl, I guess. Maybe that’s not the point to argue. Its just a cheap shot, a gimmick with little or no emotional impact except to shock. “The Mechanic” has no need for such excuses. It in turn becomes a much more effective thriller and meditation on violence in our world and far less nauseating than the “Death Wish” franchise’s tried and true riff of female violence. The pay off in “The Mechanic” is cold, exacting, and perfect, and (here’s the spoiler alert – you have been warned) I don’t mean when Jan-Michael Vincent’s hit-man-in-training’s car explodes, but rather right before that, with a glass of wine. We’re conditioned to think Bishop will get up. He doesn’t. More on that glass of wine later.
The remake also keeps the Mechanics expensive tastes through an excruciatingly blatant foreshadowing scene of “never touch my super awesome and very expensive turntable,” which leaves little doubt that it will later be touched and bad things will happen. I don’t know what they call that in scriptwriting-land, it’s done enough so I surmise it’s considered genius, but out here, in crappy-movie-watching-land its simply known as lame. But, much trouble is taken to continue to assure us that this is pretty much a good guy who just happens to have a dirty job. I can even see him on PBS. He drives a pick-up truck. He’s nice to an elderly black man who watches his boat in exchange for booze (classy touch, boys). Most importantly, he has a father-son relationship with an older hit man, Donald Sutherland, who now gives him assignments. Sutherland loves him like a son, more than his own apparently, which sets up The Big Murder. Spoiler’s abound, you have been warned, again, I’m not a movie critic, just a critic. Statham’s Bishop, against his own judgment – being like it’s his father figure and all, kills Sutherland’s character (I can not be bothered to imdb his name) who’s now become a contract hit himself. Statham the befriends Sutherland’s estranged son, teaches him how to be a hitman, learns the murder was a set-up and then seeks revenge.
Now, remember the 1972 version? More or less the same thing happened except, Bronson’s Bishop didn’t really care about the hit, and is compelled to reach out to the son, not out of any allegiance to his father, but rather what seems like curiosity as he’s found a kindred psychopath spirit. The murky movie motive of revenge never enters into it at all.
An interesting side note is one of the hits is for another, possibly competing, contract killer, who’s weakness (everyone has one) is young men. Not underage men from what I saw, just younger than himself. Since the movie’s premise is only the bad get killed, but being a contract killer isn’t bad enough to make that list, the watcher is left to speculate just what exactly this guy’s big sin is. Oh, right. I see. He’s gay. Bam.
So, we come to the end of each film, both with The Kid looking to kill The Hitman. In ’72 it’s simply a hit. The shadowy group believes Bronson’s time has come. In 2011 its an emotionally fueled revenge scenario. That Kid’s really, really upset. In 1972 The Kid has become The Master. Remember that wine glass? Everyone has a weakness. The old man has one last trick though and it’s a varoom and kaboom one. In 2011 The Kid never grows up, still gets the varoom and kaboom treatment, but the Mechanic simply drives off into the sunset in his spare pick-up. Again, pretty lame.