Sunday, 16 October 2016

Mechanic Resurrection by Philip Shelby and Lewis John Carlino

The Mechanic began life as an original script in the seventies by top screenwriter Lewis John Carlino. Its first incarnation was a 1972 version with Charles Bronson as the meticulous professional assassin and Jan-Michael Vincent as his ambitious and ultimately treacherous young apprentice.

In 2011 there was a remake, scripted by Carlino but rewritten by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) and starring Jason Statham as our friendly neighbourhood hitman and Ben Foster (so great recently in Hell or High Water) as his AAUTYA.

That film was clearly something of a success because we now have a sequel. Our dour hero is still listening to vinyl. And wastefully blowing up his high end hi-fi with high explosive booby traps. 

The opening sequence of the new movie is just great, though, with a cute female assassin (memorably played by Thai actress and pop singer Yaaying Rhatha Phongam) trying to draw a gun on Statham in a mountaintop bar-and-grill in Rio. 

Bad guys get their face sizzled on the aforementioned grill. Our hero escapes on the roof of a cable car as bullets fly around him, before hitching a ride on a hang glider.

This is a picaresque movie composed of self contained setpieces, most of them centering on the evil arms dealers Statham has been contracted to kill. 

I like the breezy way we jet around the world to beautiful locations. Thailand is particularly striking. 

The logic is for shit, though. The Mechanic is pressured (they’ve kidnapped his love interest Jessica Alba) into undertaking a series of hits which must look like accidents. 

But it turns out there’s no particular reason for them to look like accidents. And he doesn’t try very hard to achieve this anyway. The drilled swimming pool in the sky is a lot of fun, however

There’s also a weird bit where he tries to rescue Jessica from the bad guys, fails, and then courtesy of a fade out and a voice over, he’s back on the job as if nothing happened. I suspect a major re-edit. 

But it doesn't matter, Tommy Lee Jones is sheer joy when he turns up as a hip arms dealer with a soul patch and rose tinted glasses. 

The writing credits for the new film are a bit of a mess — they vary according to where you look, at the poster or on the internet. But some things are clear. Lewis John Carlino is gone, save for a "characters created by" credit.

And Richard Wenk is gone entirely. The main talent involved now is Philip Shelby, who recently wrote the absolutely brilliant Survivor. He's a terrific writer and I'm pleased to see him getting what I hope is a lucrative payday.

The other writers who are credited (depending on where you look) are Tony Mosher and the team of Rachel Long and Brian Pittman.

In any case, despite the tortuous rewrites and re-edits, Mechanic Resurrection is fast-moving, semi-coherent fun and there's the potential here for an inventive, guilty-pleasure pulp franchise.

(Image credits: The Resurrection poster is from Imp Awards. The 2011 Mechanic poster is also from Imp Awards. The 1972 poster is from Amazon.)

2 comments:

  1. I thought the original was an interesting take on self-deception, probably greenlighted very quickly right after "The Godfather" hit it big. It also had that early 70s malaise which was infecting stories back then (heroes are not heroes, it all falls apart, etc.). Not a happy movie, but an interesting one.

    The 2011 remake was more joyful (even as a bad guy, you want to root for Jason Statham ... maybe especially as a bad guy). Althought it had its dark moments, it wasn't "grimdark" and, for a professional killer, Bishop was an okay guy.

    I'm worried about that logic problem you mentioned in the new one. That's the kind of thing which throws me out of a movie and, once thrown out, I usually don't bother to find my way back in.

    Side note: while looking up some details to make sure my timing was correct on the original, I found an article about the movie in an old "Black Belt" magazine which was quite interesting, being published BEFORE "Enter the Dragon" was released. They had no idea what was coming.

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  2. Thank you for one of the most erudite and interesting comments to arise from my blog! Lewis John Carlino is a very interesting writer; his novelisation of the original Mechanic is also pretty good! I think the new movie is worth seeing as a piece of anarchic violent fun with some truly relishable performances (stand up, Tommy Lee Jones). Thank you again for reading... and writing!

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