It was quite hard to suppress a grin as the names of sponsors flashed before the screening of Mechanic: Resurrection. Viva Fitness, Barbarian Power Gym… For those in the theatre who hadn’t seen the original that released in 2011, this was enough indication that they were in for a standard Statham affair. As if on cue, the opening scene has Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) involved in a rooftop skirmish. I quite enjoyed how these films use the environment to make action look believable. A barbecue is used to burn an enemy’s face, a taser is used to generate fire… you get the idea. Shortly, he makes the gym companies happy when he, armed with a surfboard, walks bare-chested along the shore of a Thai beach.
Director: Dennis Gansel
Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones
Storyline: Arthur Bishop must assassinate three powerful men to get back the woman he loves
In this sequel, Arthur is forced back into the killing game by a damsel in distress, Gina Thornton (Jessica Alba). Crain (Sam Hazeldine), a former associate of Arthur, is her tormentor in chief. Arthur, whose descent into romance with Gina is beaten for speed only by the fall of his enemies, has no choice apparently, but to do Crain’s bidding: Stage the killings of three powerful people from across the globe. Somewhere around this time, as the villain strutted about as if in complete control of the situation, I remembered a line from The Dark Knight: “Your client, one of the most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp, and your plan is to blackmail him?”
But Crain doesn’t care. He wants his targets dead, and on one level, so do we, considering how much morbid fun such assassination exercises usually are. Arthur, like in a video game, gets a series of kills that are progressively difficult, and which lead to the final boss round. This gaming flavour is further strengthened by Arthur’s narration before each assassination. “The target is jailed in the Penang prison that is surrounded by a shark-infested sea.” Or “the target is a penthouse billionaire who lives in a fortress in the sky.” Such tasks on screen, much like in games like Grand Theft Auto, generate an adrenaline rush, providing the enjoyment arising from experiencing a heightened sense of stress in a safe, controlled environment. In fact, when one of Arthur’s victims plummets down from the top of a skyscraper, the audience burst into laughter. Apparently, it’s almost funny how nobody stands a chance against Statham. The 99-minute long film is almost entirely about these three tasks, and whether or not he accomplishes them. While the first task is a tad too easy to feel any real tension, the second’s quite enjoyable, and also served the purpose of warning me against ever stepping into a rooftop infinity pool.
Even Hollywood films aren’t impervious to the charms of a love track, and so, we have Gina and Arthur falling in love before you can say Jack Robinson. It’s utterly unconvincing, and the scene in Thailand that has her laughing with Arthur seems like even they are aware of how bogus their relationship is. Director Dennis Gansel goes a step further in trying to prove the depth of their romance. He has the villain tell Gina that the watch Arthur’s gifted her is most precious to him, and that it means that he will do anything for her. The manipulative, vindictive baddie suddenly turns into a messenger of love. It’d be annoying if it weren’t funny.
Mechanic: Resurrection is a quintessential popcorn film. You can regularly look down into your bag of popcorn to carefully pick out the good pieces, and look up at the screen without missing much. Arthur’s likely shooting down somebody or perhaps using his vernier calipers to measure distances. In a more serious film, the astounding lack of depth, detail and nuance would have been more vexing, but this is a Statham action film, a genre unto itself. We are mere mortals watching Arthur, oblivious to space and time, fly from country to country to put powerful people out of their miseries. In a sense, Arthur, the mechanic, is like the very embodiment of space and time. You can survive it for a while, but you’ll never outlive it. Towards the end, the villain finally wakes up to the folly of picking The Mechanic as his adversary (remember The Dark Knight line?), but I wasn’t at all sure why Arthur needed to wait so long to rescue Gina. Then, I looked down and understood. The omniscient Arthur was just giving us time to finish the popcorn.
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