Review: 'The Mechanic'

(Two stars)

Fans of Jason Statham's bone-crunching "Transporter" franchise will get a kick out of this visceral and violent actioner. But a weak script, Statham's wooden performance and a fumbled climax seriously deflate what could have been an explosive thriller.

"The Mechanic" feels like it was built with spare parts -- it has the body of a hot rod but the engine of a jalopy.

Statham is "mechanic" (i.e., assassin) Arthur Bishop, a stoic tough guy whose emotions range from serious to ... well, that's about it. Arthur's well-planned executions have placed him at the top of the hit-man totem pole, above even his mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland). When a hit is put out on Harry following a botched job, Arthur finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a sticky situation. And Harry's murder leaves Arthur wondering whom to trust.

Arthur hooks up with Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster), a misguided young man who drinks and smokes with wanton disregard for his liver and lungs. Arthur agrees to teach Steve his assassin ways so the wild-eyed youth can channel his pent-up anger -- and dish out some vengeance on those responsible for his father's slaying. Together the two take on a handful of contract killings before setting their sights on Harry's former partner, Dean (Tony Goldwyn).

Let the bullets fly.

The spotty screenplay sways between intermittently clever dialogue and unbelievable plot points. The action scenes are edgy and intense, though the frenetic camerawork is often disorienting.

Foster -- still one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets -- easily steals the show with his magnetic performance, while Statham simply channels his Frank Martin character from the "Transporter" films. Statham can throw a wheelkick better than anybody, but I'm starting to wonder if that's about the extent of his thespian skills. It's difficult to sympathize with a character who shows little to no emotion.

Statham and Foster make a charismatic tandem that could have had crowds cheering. But the film really starts to devolve after the second act, and Statham's Arthur is not a particularly likable or admirable protagonist.

Although the action is fast-paced and well choreographed, the script and its under-developed characters leave much to be desired. Statham fans will enjoy seeing the chiseled actor knock people senseless (and many will appreciate seeing his several shirtless scenes), but Foster is the one really worth watching.

This "Mechanic" could have been fixed with a few minor tweaks. Instead, it stalls.

Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity. 1 hour, 40 minutes.

— Tyler Hanley

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