Sunday 14 August 2022

Movie Review: The Mechanic (1972)

A crime thriller, The Mechanic is a deceptively complex and tidily executed action drama about an assassin's life.

In Los Angeles, Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) is a methodical hitman working for a mysterious criminal syndicate. After eliminating a target by staging a gas leak explosion, Bishop receives orders to terminate Harry McKenna (Keenan Wynn), an elderly friend of Bishop's deceased father and an ousted member of the syndicate. 

McKenna's 24-year-old son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent), who never liked his father, enjoys the party lifestyle and also displays cold-blooded comfort around death. Bishop starts experiencing health issues, and takes Steve under his wing as a potential successor, teaching him the tricks of the assassination trade. But the syndicate is unhappy Bishop is making unilateral decisions, and the next few assignments for Bishop and Steve, including a rushed job in Naples, will be challenging.

Written by Lewis John Carlino and directed with panache by Michael Winner, The Mechanic is a career highlight for Charles Bronson and a superlatively economical thriller. The opening 15 minutes feature no dialogue: Bishop carefully plans and executes a hit, no words needed as Winner introduces the protagonist through deliberately efficient scenes. The final act is packed full of breathless action and twisty revelations, ending with a memorably abrupt triple punctuation mark. 

In between, unique character traits are allowed to surface. Bishop has a romantic partner (Jill Ireland), but only in the morning does their interlude expose corners of his psychology. Carlino is also interested in exploring the core theme of surrogate father-son dynamics. Both Bishop and Steve had troubled relationships with their dads, and Bishop finds a personal reason to make amends bundled within professional succession planning objectives. In this world of violence of course nothing will go according to plan, but the thoughtful human context infuses The Mechanic with unexpected depth.

Despite enjoying numerous locations ranging from Bishop's elegant bachelor's pad to plenty of learning-the-trade settings (including a small plane flight), the film is edited for bold brevity. When the time comes for action scenes, Winner excels with a deft touch, building tension in sharp strokes to keep the energy on edge. The stuntmen enjoy their moments of glory in a motorcycle chase on hillside trails and a car chase on twisty Italian coastal roads. The explosions are plentiful and spectacular, and the one shootout is suitably noisy. Using finely crafted tools, The Mechanic delivers the fix.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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