As you (hopefully) recall, the original Charles Bronson version of THE MECHANIC wasn't exactly designed to carry a sequel. The decades-later remake did a commendable job with the dirty work and stuck closely to the original story as Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) trained a potentially dangerous protege in the art of assassination... but it just couldn't bring itself to go through with the double-whammy. In anticipation of a hit, the door was left open for the sequel nobody was really asking for.
It's not that I didn't want to see another lead role for Statham... his solo efforts are the closest thing today to the dependable string of latter-day Bronson vehicles--and they're nearly as rare now. Okay, I caved in and saw SPY just because he was in it and I ended up enjoying his self-parody. I grew less less interested in seeing him in ensemble pieces (EXPENDABLES, FAST/FURIOUS). I still want CRANK 3 but I'll probably never get it. And I haven't seen a Statham-starrer on the big screen since 2013's HOMEFRONT.
And now? After playing second banana to Melissa McCarthy, he's now sharing top billing with Jessica Alba. I'd sworn off seeing any more of her movies (or at least PAYING to see them) after what she did to MACHETE... but it's still Statham, I saw DON'T BREATHE last week, and the only competition right now is YOGA HOSERS. Okay. I'll take the early show.
Bishop has more past baggage invented for the sake of this sequel, which finds him hanging out incognito in Brazil, allowing the world to think him dead. But his old 'pal' Crain (Sam Hazeldine) knows better and sends his goon squad out to recruit Bishop to carry out three specific kills for his (Crain's) benefit. Because, of course, Arthur Bishop is the very best at what he does. Right away, you learn the difference between a re-MAKE (the Simon West MECHANIC) and a re-HASH (this and every other retired hitman movie under the sun).
Naturally, Bishop wants nothing to do with this and makes that clear, but now he can't stay in Brazil anymore, so he hangs out in Thailand with his mother-figure/conscience Michelle Yeoh. Who persuades him to get involved when it looks like a young lady visiting the area is suffering domestic abuse. Arthur does what he does all too well, and now Gina (Alba) becomes HIS problem. And of course, she's actually bait that Crain is dangling.
We all know perfectly well that Bishop is going to get around to the business of the three kills sooner or later. But first you have to sit through an excruciating opening act (outlandish curtain jerker involving a gondola and a hang glider excepted) in which he falls in love (for real) with Gina. The Alba factor? I really and truly tried to be patient and not to assume anything negative in advance. But here's her role in this. "Hear this awful story I'm telling you about innocent women and children who are going to suffer and die if I don't do what Crain says? I don't WANT to do this, but you understand why I did it anyway, right?" "Sure, love." "Okay, now I'm going to stand up in my bikini, saunter slowly towards the ocean and indulge in some lingering underwater swimming shots that'll make great trailer copy." "Go right ahead. I'll wait." "Okay, I'm done. Isn't that awful about those poor children?" "Yeah, we'd better do something."
Shortly afterwards, Gina becomes rescue bait for the rest of the movie. Really. That's all she gets to do. Oh, they let her get some kicks in on the bad guys once in a while, but she also falls into a hot tub while wearing a white dress. And she takes a bullet graze so she can tear that very dress to make a bandage. This is IT, folks. And while I have nothing whatsoever against sex appeal in the movies, just imagine what, say, Milla Jovovich could have done with this role. Or how about... Michelle Yeoh? SHE'S STANDING RIGHT THERE! YOO-HOO! Good grief, I just read this morning that 63-year-old Jackie Chan is in a new action comedy with Johnny Knoxville that's never, ever going to play around here. Alba is there to look good in revealing outfits and NOTHING more. She's got terrific true-life business acumen and I have no doubt that she's a very nice person. I just can't deal with her attempts to 'act,' sorry.
Whew? Rant much? I know, I know, I just had to get it out of my system hopefully once and for all.
Thankfully, once the obstacle known as Gina is plucked from Bishop's path, the film (directed by Dennis Gansel, whose other work is unfamiliar to me) finally gets around to the business of being a MECHANIC film and letting Statham do what HE does best. Oh, and it goes out of its way to paint the first two assigned kills as reprehensible scumbags, so we can enjoy Bishop's meticulous and ingenious methods of getting into places and getting to people he has no business getting to. The whole "make it look like an accident" thing is utter nonsense (gee, do you think someone just might suspect foul play if you blow a hole in a Malaysian prison wall AFTER you've done the hit), but the filmmakers are completely in on the joke, as we can see when we're confronted with a special swimming pool projecting from the top of an Australian skyscraper (and yes, the sequence involving the Australian hit is the collective high point of the movie and ranks with the best of Statham's highly unlikely action moments).
Ah, but Tommy Lee Jones doesn't seem like all that bad a guy (except, well, you know, all that arms dealing). He has something of a moral compass AND a sense of humor, so Hit Number Three isn't going to work out quite the same... okay, enough. I was sufficiently grateful for Jones's company. There's really nothing more to say about the movie, which plays out exactly as you know it's going to play out (even though a gratuitous tag takes the specific trouble to spell out exactly how somebody made it to the end titles, as if even the casual viewer would be incapable of figuring it out on his own).
The best parts of this movie belonged in a different movie. And there's still plenty of potential for another terrific Jason Statham star turn. But after this utterly pointless exercise, the odds of seeing it on the big screen are now yet even smaller.
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