This review originally ran on Den of Geek UK.
Creativity’s an oft-overlooked commodity in action movies. The likes of John Woo and Sam Peckinpah knew how to stage an exciting shootout, but they also knew that their violent set-pieces had to have an original idea in there somewhere to keep them interesting.
British action icon and Den of Geek favorite Jason Statham has appeared in more than his fair share of clever, inventive action scenes, from the expertly-choreographed, oiled-up brawls of The Transporter to the completely bonkers shoot-outs of Crank. On the face of it, Mechanic: Resurrection gives Statham another chance to do what he does best: bust heads, discharge firearms, and look cool and sinewy while he does so.
And yes, there are some splashes of creativity that an action film needs to keep things interesting: a high-wire sequence involving a swimming pool – which we aren’t spoiling, since it’s even on the poster – is a particular highlight. It has to be said, though, that the violent encounters elsewhere in the film struggle to scale the same entertaining heights.
The original Mechanic, a remake of the ’70s Charles Bronson vehicle of the same name, was an entertainingly explosive action thriller, unfussily directed by Simon West of Con Air fame. It introduced Arthur Bishop (Statham), an assassin who’s a weapons expert and adept at disguising his kills as accidents. Mechanic: Resurrection picks things up shortly after the first film’s explosive events, and sees Bishop turn his back on a life of violence for a quiet retirement on an island in the South Pacific.
Unfortunately for Bishop, a villain named Riah Crain (Sam Hazeldine) has a job for him: carry out three assassinations on targets dotted around the globe. When Bishop refuses, the dastardly Riah kidnaps Bishop’s new love interest, Gina (Jessica Alba) to coax him into accepting. A lightning bolt of fury flashes across Bishop’s eyes, and you can bet that violence will follow.
With its gadgets, planet-trotting locations and mile-high acrobatics, Mechanic: Resurrection feels like an effort to give Statham his own equivalent of the Mission: Impossible franchise – something he’s more than capable of shouldering. The problem is that neither newcomer director Dennis Gansel nor writers Philip Shelby and Tony Mosher appear to have the imagination to make Resurrection more than a formulaic time-killer.
One or two major set-pieces aside (including the one with the pool we were banging on about above), the action in Resurrection is all fairly rote. Statham’s brilliant at this kind of thing, yet the gunplay and fist-fights march to such a predictable rhythm that an overwhelming sense of familiarity sets in before the first half-hour’s ticked by.
Resurrection also makes the curious choice of wasting its most famous names in almost entirely disposable roles. Michelle Yeoh, one of the great martial arts stars of her generation, is essentially cast as a hotel proprietor. You’d be forgiven for thinking that, at any moment, she’s going to leap over the counter and kick someone square in the teeth, but instead, she’s frittered away in a part that almost anyone could have played.
Likewise Jessica Alba, whose character is set up as a former soldier yet spends the film doing relatively little of note. And then there’s Tommy Lee Jones, who shows up in pyjamas and a pair of slippers, and grumbles his way through the role of an eccentric arms dealer. Jones would’ve made more sense as the villain, but we’re guessing the movie’s budget would only stretch to having the veteran actor around for a day or two.
Instead, we’re left with an underwritten, painfully listless villain whose defining characteristic is that he owns a yacht. The presence of such a generic antagonist – all staring eyes and hissed put-downs – pretty much sums up the problem with Mechanic: Resurrection. It’s not incompetently made, but it doesn’t have the grit, sense of fun or sheer madness of the best Stath joints. It’s by no means the action star’s worst film – In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale would be your humble writer’s personal choice – but it’s far from his best. The mighty Statham arguably deserves a higher caliber of action movie.
Mechanic: Resurrection is in theaters now.