August 13, 2012

Re-Action: The Mechanic (1972) vs. The Mechanic (2011)

So, I just watched and reviewed the original version of The Mechanic starring Charles Bronson, but how does it compare with the Stath flavoured remake?

Story: The overall story is the same: “An aging hitman Arthur Bishop befriends a young man Steve McKenna who wants to be a professional killer. Eventually it becomes clear that someone has betrayed them”.

Interestingly, both versions of Arthur Bishop listen to classical music and have photos up on the wall of their future targets. They are detached from life and use prostitutes to fulfill their needs, but never get emotionally involved in relationships.

The remake does have an unnecessary voice-over which narrates what Bishop does rather than showing us, because we’re incapable of thinking for ourselves.

Acting: In the original we’ve got original tough guy Charles Bronson as the lead and in the remake we’ve got new tough guy Jason Statham. So who does better? My money goes on The Stath. Bronson’s character was cold and lacked any personality. You didn’t really care about him and frankly he enjoyed being a killer. Statham’s character feels remorse and would like to get out. Frankly, he’s just a better actor than Bronson and despite the fact that neither of them would be running for Pope, The Stath’s version of the character is easily better.

I actually really liked Jan-Michael Vincent’s version of Steve McKenna as he is really arrogant and a bit of a ladies man. Although he’s a smug git, he shows more personality than Ben Foster does in the remake. Vincent’s best scene is his lack of compassion for his girlfriend when she attempts suicide in front of him merely to get attention from him. He calmly leafs through the newspaper and tells her to go to the hospital.

When you see Foster in the remake, he just looks creepy straight away and his character is more of an angry loner. Arguably he’s more believable in terms of becoming a killer but I’m giving props to Vincent here as I thought he did a great job.

Action: Alas, this is where the original shows its age. The pacing is slow to say the least in the first half of the film, but it does pick up in the second half. The Stath’s version of The Mechanic is very well paced with plenty of action and hard R violence. It feels shorter and arguably could have been a little longer. There is however, some annoying shaky cam which detracts from some of the action scenes; the original did not have this problem.

Tone: The remake is arguably sleazier as there’s more emphasis on the prostitutes and the scene between Ben Foster and and his mark in the house is decidedly uncomfortable viewing. The original is more subtle and that entire scene is not even in it. Surprising that a film from the 70’s would actually be tamer than the modern remake.

Music: The original has some trippy 70’s music which is dated and forgettable. The remake has Mark Isham’s ice-cool twangy guitar theme which I listen to regularly, so this wins.

Overall: Neither film is exactly a classic, but I think I will have to go with the Bronson original; as big a fan as I am of The Stath, the Bronson movie has a far ballsier ending. Although it’s slower paced, it has more atmosphere and Bronson’s natural coolness made him perfect for this role.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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