Simon West's blood-drenched thriller The Mechanic is a loose remake of Michael Winner's 1972 film of the same name with Jason Statham taking on the title role played originally by Charles Bronson. Statham if nothing else is a performer who knows his limitations. He’s an action star first and actor second and he has no interest in mimicking the iconic Death Wish star or even attempting an American accent for that matter. He’s aware perhaps more than anyone that badassery knows no tongue. It speaks in fractured limbs and severed tendons.
Statham plays Arthur Bishop an elite “mechanic ” so-called for his practice of fixing problems most of which entail someone being alive when someone else would rather they not be. Bishop’s talent for killing earns him a healthy wage from his employer a shadowy organization referred to only as “The Company.” In between assignments he lives in a stylish pad on the Louisiana bayou (a location which assures him a measure of anonymity AND affords the filmmakers generous tax breaks – talk about synergy!) where he sips fine wine listens to classical music restores classic sports cars and ventures out on occasion for brief but passionate liaisons with a Spitzer-grade prostitute (Mini Anden) whose appeals for greater intimacy he politely declines.
"You need companionship " chides his kindly wheelchair-bound boss and mentor Harry the only person with whom he enjoys a meaningful relationship. Bishop has genuine affection for Harry and when The Company acting on the dictates of its corporate-sinister CEO (Tony Goldwyn naturally) liquidates the old man over allegations of profit-skimming he is shaken – inasmuch as cold-blooded hitmen can be shaken. But that still doesn’t quite explain why he agrees to take on Harry’s orphaned son Steve (Ben Foster) an unstable alcoholic ne’er-do-well with nihilistic tendencies as an apprentice.
No matter. There is payback to be meted out; best to get on with it. And the combustible protégé at the very least promises to make things entertaining. The two are an odd pair: Steve’s methods are as blunt and reckless as Bishop’s are careful and precise. They even make love differently as West demonstrates in two lightning-quick sex scenes that are shot in essentially the same matter as the action sequences. Because well they pretty much are. West's direction may be muddled and choppy at times but at least his tone is consistent.
Foster adds an air of violent unpredictability that spices up The Mechanic’s otherwise generic wade through genre conventions. When Steve embarks on his first solo job the assassination of a gay rival mechanic you get the sense that he just might ditch the assignment and hop into bed with him. (He doesn’t but wouldn’t that make for one hell of a plot twist?) It's the film's strangest and most interesting scene illustrative of Foster's ability to keep us on our toes when the story itself lags. Even Statham at times seems legitimately flummoxed by his co-star as if he himself doesn't quite know what to expect from him.
We do however know what to expect from The Mechanic: lots of over-the-top action and just enough of a plot to give the over-the-top action relevance. The film is ineffably preposterous – Bishop and Steve make little effort to conceal themselves during their bloody endeavors and their “expert” assassinations leave behind a treasure trove of forensic evidence; Steve spends much of the film as a bumbling neophyte only to become suddenly proficient during the climax; etc. – but no more so than any other Jason Statham vehicle. Depth of character is an afterthought: The principal dilemma our heroes face is how best to eliminate the next faceless goon that enters our path? To which the answer invariably is: Use the gun.
Three years since relieving ruthless Las Vegas hotel owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of a large chunk of cash Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew--including detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and novice pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon)--have tried to live modest legit lives. Sure it's hard to go straight but hey at least they got away with the heist of the century. Right? Not quite. Seems a mysterious someone has ratted the gang out to Benedict who demands his $160 million back or else. Strapped of most of their cash and too hot in the United States to pull off a job Ocean and company decide Europe would be the best place to score much to the chagrin of Danny's wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Once in Europe however they find out it isn't as easy as it used to be. They run up against the tough-as-nails Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who once had a fling with Rusty and Europe's premier master thief the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel) who seems to be one step ahead of Ocean's crew. Let the games begin.
Ocean's Twelve's crop of A-listers have way too much fun making these movies as they recapture that freewheeling spirit and good-ole-boy camaraderie from Ocean's Eleven. Even though sometimes it seems like they are a bunch of frat boys hazing each other the actors clearly are enjoying themselves tremendously--and so do we. Clooney and Pitt continue to be the suave ringleaders speaking to each other in code while Pitt's Rusty gets the love interest this time around. As Rusty's former flame Zeta-Jones holds her own with the boys but doesn't have nearly the chemistry with Pitt that Roberts and Clooney exude as marrieds Danny and Tess. Actually Roberts almost steals Twelve away from the guys: she gets to show off her comedic abilities in one of the film's most hysterical sequences which involves real-life movie stars and Fabergé eggs. As far as the rest of the gang they all are back and raring to go including Damon who comes off as even more green and eager as Linus and the hilarious bickering Malloy brothers played brilliantly by Scott Caan and Casey Affleck. As for the villains Garcia's Benedict has very little do leaving most of the malevolent posturing and stylish good looks to French actor Cassel (Birthday Girl) as the crafty Night Fox.
With one of the keenest eyes in the business director Steven Soderbergh is a pro at letting audiences experience what seem to be very personal moments in his films. Ocean's Twelve is no exception as we become privy to the locker-room antics of our favorite band of thieves. This makes you as much a part of the boys club as its rowdy stars. Soderbergh describes Twelve as a "movie in which everything goes wrong from the get-go " whereas everything went right in Eleven. This allows for some wonderful comic scenes such as Roberts' escapade and the quick-witted exchanges between the boys. Upon finding out that the gang is now called "Ocean's Eleven" safecracker Frank (Bernie Mac) exclaims "Who decided that? I'm a private contractor!" The film's inherent problems come from George Nolfi's screenplay which tries to incorporate the whole "greatest thief in America meets the greatest thief in Europe" idea. Suddenly Twelve becomes less about planning a heist and watching things go wrong than about a cock fight to see which thief can outdo the other thief. At the end when all the convoluted twists are revealed you're left wishing for simpler times.