THE MECHANIC is a clinic in betrayals, the beating heart of thrillers

the mechanic starring jason statham directed by simon west

You can make all sorts of academic arguments about how many stories there are. One: the hero’s journey. Two: tragedies and comedies. Ten, if you read SAVE THE CAT and see what primeval stories ring true. Plus plenty of other books and storytelling gurus and academics who will happily explain why there are actually 36 stories, or 100.

With action movies, I’d argue there are clearly some distinct types:

Monster in the House–You’re trapped in an enclosed space with a monster, and either it’s gonna kill you or you’re gonna kill it. There’s no escape, no calling the cops, no trickery. This is a great situation and I’d argue ALIEN (supposedly sci-fi), FATAL ATTRACTION (pigeon-holed as domestic drama), and JAWS (mislabeled horror) are all actually Monster in the House.

A key difference between these stories and horror: the monster dies. In true horror stories, the monster is actually punishing everybody for their sins (teenagers drinking, doing drugs, having sex, or scientists playing God) and everybody dies in the end. Only the monster returns for the sequels.

Disaster–A volcano is about to go off, a giant asteroid will hit the planet, or a climate change means Kevin Costner’s movie WATERWORLD is a prophecy. This type of movie ends one of three ways: (a) the hero stops the disaster (ARMAGEDDON), (b) the hero can’t stop it but gets everybody out of the burning lava, or (c) this is really a horror movie and the disaster can’t be stopped because we’re being punished for our sins.

Related: WATERWORLD was a prophecy, so get your sweet sailboat ready

War–You can’t get a setting with more conflict and action than a war zone, though war movies are often actually about other things with the war truly being the setting and backdrop. Pure war movies are about fighting the good fight and punching Nazis in the nose, or defeating an invasion of aliens by flying your F-16 straight up into the death beam after the president gives an amazing speech. Anti-war movies (PLATOON) are about making people cautious about getting dragged into a mistake, or fighting wars for the wrong reasons.

Rescue–I don’t know who you are. I don’t have any money. What I do have is a certain set of skills.

Betrayal–This is beating heart of thrillers, especially ones that don’t rely on Jason Statham finding creative ways of kicking people in the face. Betrayal from within is a tough, tough story, and there’s plenty of tension and storytelling goodness involved. Using betrayal in an action movie is a wonderful way to spice up the typically predictable plots of most action stories.

Which brings us to THE MECHANIC, an under-rated action movie directed by Simon West, who also helmed WILD CARD, perhaps Statham’s most interesting movie.

Related: Top 4 reasons why WILD CARD is the best Jason Statham action movie ever

Why betrayals work so well

What this film does so well is piling up layer upon layer of betrayals.

Your average action film has zero.

A decent one may have a big betrayal right before the climax, something you really did not see coming.

THE MECHANIC shows us how smart storytelling, with early setups, can matter far more than a film’s CGI budget.

This movie starts with a betrayal that leads to Statham being tricked into killing his mentor. And that leads the dead man’s son to Statham, seeking solace and revenge, not knowing it was Statham who pulled the trigger. What’s great is we don’t know until late that the mentor was set up, the evidence against him faked, so Statham genuinely felt remorse. That guilt doesn’t go away when he learns the truth, because it doesn’t change the fact he shot his friend, false pretenses or not.

So it’s beautiful in the end that the son, after helping take out the bad guys, still can’t let go of the fact that his new friend killed his father, and tries to take him out by blowing up his truck when they stop for gas. Even better are the setups–and they are plural, for they are legion–of how the son goes back to Statham’s house, full of dead bad guys, and does everything Statham told him to never do: turn on his fancy record player and drive the red sports car he’s always fixing up and never using.

The car and house blow up, along with the son, and all of this feels about right. Statham didn’t go out of his way to kill the son, not even after the attempt on his life. Wouldn’t seem correct since he did take the man’s father. The son only dies through hubris.

There are more betrayals in this movie, I kid you not, and they’re all set up correctly. None of that nonsense where a film shows a payoff, then explains the setup with a flashback scene THAT YOU NEVER SAW BEFORE.

VERDICT

11/10, an excellent movie that starts strong and ends stronger, with deautiful twists you do not see coming.

 

Toss a coin to your Witcher

Listen: I am not one of those people who watches movies or shows to find 23 hidden easter eggs in Baby Yoda’s bowl of bone broth or whatever. I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THAT.

In fact, I have about five minutes to write this, and no, I did not play the Witcher game, or read the novels, so we are not diving deep into whatever Witcher craziness you’re into.

HOWEVER: If you own some form of Glowing Screen, whether it’s (1) a supercomputer in your pocket that was once used to make these things called telephone calls or (b) the lastest 120-inch, 8k television that cost more than my car, even though there is no 8k content to play on your expensive toy, then you should (c) fire up Netflix and watch all of THE WITCHER.

The whole thing. Start to finish.

Skip through the boring bits, though there aren’t many.

Here’s what I think they did right, what they could’ve done better, and why I’m looking forward to SEASON 2: THE WITCHER GRUNTS SLIGHTLY MORE DIALOGUE WHILE KILLING EVERYTHING.

What they did right

All the actors. Seriously. 

All. Of. Them.

You may not know the name Henry Cavill right off, though you will remember the last actor who played Superman in a couple of movies, and the bad guy in the last Mission Impossible, and yeah, it’s that guy.

He’s amazing.

I won’t name all the other characters. The bard is funny, the sorceress is cool, the bad guys are sufficiently bad and scary. It’s well done.

Also good: sets, costumes, special effects. You know, all the things.

What they really did well: building up to a climactic battle where the good guys lose. 

What they could’ve done better

Honestly, the only real flaw is jumping around in time.

I didn’t take notes, because nobody was making me write a term paper on this thing. 

Halfway through, though, I’m wondering if all the queens in this thing are brunettes, and is this other queen related to the one I remember dying? Then five episodes later, I figure out oh, that’s not the dead queen’s sister or cousin, ruler of some other land, that’s the same dead queen, just earlier in time.

It’s not super clear. And honestly, the story would’ve worked chronologically, which is just a fancy way of saying, “Without jumping around in time like a rabid squirrel.”

Why I’m looking forward to Season 2

Not just because of the good acting, writing, sets, effects and all that.

Mostly because the showrunners had the guts and wisdom to put their heroes up a tree and throw rocks at them.

They really do lose the battle at the climax of the season. Things are not Good.

I like that.

It makes for better storytelling.

If the Witcher killed every monster and won the battle at the end of Season 1, why would you worry or care about what happens in Season 2? You’d expect him to keep on kicking butt. It would be a romp, and yes, romps can be kinda fun, like when your favorite football team absolutely smokes the Patriots, or when the hero of an action movie punches and kicks his way through 492 bad guys armed with meat cleavers and such.

Romps, though, aren’t actually that interesting or fun to the audience.

The Witcher was plenty of fun. 11/10 would watch again.

And just for kicks, here’s the cast of the show talking about it.

Random review: THE SPACE BETWEEN US is on Netflix–should you fire it up?

If you get on Netflix, Amazon Prime or whatever and wander around, there are 5.8 gazillion movies that pop up that you never knew existed, like THE SPACE BETWEEN US.

Check out the trailer, then we’ll chat.

 

Will you rage-quit after five minutes?

No. The opening is solid and keeps your interest.

How’s the acting?

Alright, so you’ve got Commissioner Gorden with an English accent (yes, Gary Oldman is actually British, so this may actually be the one time he doesn’t have to transform his body and voice for a role).

The cast is pretty small and I didn’t recognize the actors except for Oldman and B.D. Wong, but they’re all pretty good. I believe, deep in my soul, that the biggest problem with movies like this with a lot of relatively unknown actors is keeping the performances even, and making sure great actors don’t completely overshadows newcomers. They keep it even here. 

I don’t know the names and am not going to cheat by looking them all up on google: you have what kinda looks like Young Anne Hathaway as his astronaut mom, who does a great job in the first part of the film, then Sarah Connor as his astronaut stepmom on Mars and later Earth.

Two young actors playing the lead, the First Boy Born on Mars and his pen pal and love interest, the Young Blonde Misfit Who Steals Cars and Doesn’t Believe in Motorcycle Helmets.

What about the story?

They pack a lot of plots and subplots into this. The most fun part of the film is toward the middle, with the two teenagers on the run. They’re clever and you can watch the relationships grow in a way that makes a lot more sense than big-budget movies featuring ageless and powerful Vampires Who Sparkle falling in love with dumb teenagers.

There is a story mistake toward the end of the movie that almost did make us quit the film, and I won’t give away what happens, only to say THE SPACE BETWEEN US already seemed a little too much like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS based on title and premise. But if you stick through the moment when you’re tempted to hit HOME on the remote and find out the latest happenings with the Great British Bakeoff, the ending redeems this movie.

VERDICT

Sure, go ahead and fire this up on Netflix with your favorite person on the couch next to you. it’s worth your time.