Because I want this blog to have a wide assortment of action films, tonight we’ll be looking at a pretty decent Charles Bronson flick from 1972. If action films in the eighties were the decade of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, the seventies truly belongs to three men: Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Charles Bronson.
In The Mechanic, Bronson plays Arthur Bishop, a hitman who works for a group of gangsters known only as “The Organization”. His trademark is precision and attention to detail as we see in the rather stunning fifteen minute sequence that opens the movie. Director Michael Winner gives us an audacious opening here, showing us every single detail Bishop goes through to pull off the kill.
It’s a real knockout of an opening (provided you dig the seventies style of action flick) and sets the tone for a pretty darn good crime thriller. Bishop pulls off another hit, this time a friend of his whose son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent) ends up coming on as his apprentice. Vincent does well with the role, giving the character a rather unsettling coldness as we see in a scene where a female admirer of his wants him to talk her out of killing herself. I think this may be the first time a suicide has been averted by a guy simply telling the girl to drive herself to the hospital and going on with the rest of his evening.
The story is pretty simple for the most part with Bishop gradually warming up to the idea of Steve as an apprentice and after a few jobs, one of which goes slightly askew, the finale comes in Italy with a very good car chase and a neat twist ending as Steve double crosses Bishop, only to finds that while his mentor may have taught him everything he knows, Bishop didn’t necessarily teach him everything he knew.
As for other performances, Bronson is quite good as the stoic, rather depressed killer (I think Dolph Lundgren has played some variation on this sort of guy at least ten times) and we even get a bit of psychological insight into the man by way of a rather unpleasant childhood memory of how he learned to swim. Why yes, it does involve his dad just tossing him in and seeing what would happen next!
There are a few flaws here and there as while Bishop's psychological makeup is pretty well set up, the payoff is a bit ropey. there is a sequence where he has an episode at an aquarium (why a guy with bad memories concerning water would go to one is beyond me but anyway) yet later on, we see him scuba-diving with little to no problem. Also, I would have liked a little more personality from the group Bishop works for. As it stands, we get only one real look at the group which is one meeting towards the end with Bishop and one of his bosses.
Despite these minor flaws, The Mechanic is a very good piece of seventies action film making with solid work from Bronson, nice supporting work from Vincent and, of course, the obligatory role for Mrs. Charles Bronson at the time, Jill Ireland. Here, she plays a hooker Bishop frequents in order to feel some sense of intimacy with another person. It’s a rather odd scene. I wonder what the conversation at the dinner table was like after shooting.
It’s rather appropriate I’m posting about this tonight as early next year a remake starring Jason Statham will be released. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.