Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a 'mechanic' - an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It's a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But when his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed - he wants those responsible dead. His mission grows complicated when Harry's son (Ben Foster) approaches him with the same vengeful goal and a determination to learn Bishop's trade.
The 1972 version of The Mechanic is a tough-minded action film that reflects its disillusioned era. While no masterpiece, it does get points for the retro-coolness of prime-era Charles Bronson, cast as an ice-cold hit man who begins teaching the tricks of the trade to a young apprentice. So the prospect of a 2011 remake isn't especially sacrilegious, and handing the central role to 21st-century tough guy Jason Statham is a logical choice; Statham's got the moves, the voice, and the three-day stubble necessary for the role. In some fairly significant ways, though, the remake backs away from the hardness of the original and settles for a less daring approach. Director Simon West (Con Air) manages to make even New Orleans locations seem monotonous, as he covers everything in a baked-butterscotch glaze and surrounds his antihero with the sleekest, most boring kind of modern hardware (the old skool LP turntable is a nice exception). Statham stays in his locked-down key throughout, while, as his student, Ben Foster--somewhat less jittery here than in the likes of 3:10 to Yuma or Alpha Dog--strides into one reckless situation after another. Playing peripheral roles as members of the hit man's shadowy network, Donald Sutherland and Tony Goldwyn successfully read their lines. The actual targets of the hits are creepy enough so that we aren't unduly troubled by Statham's line of work, and the ending falls far short of the memorable original. A take-no-prisoners approach to violence makes this seem even more like an empty exercise. --Robert Horton