The Mechanic

Dir: Michael Winner, 1972. Starring: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent & Jill Ireland. Action.
The Mechanic

An aging assassin (Bronson) contemplates retirement and takes a young apprentice (Vincent) under his wing, getting much more than he bargained for.

Lewis John Carlino’s screenplay is sparse, but strong. Unlike newer action films, the script takes its time to give you a sense of the isolation and loneliness that comes with being a professional killer. The story provides two strong characters of vastly different backgrounds that share a similar sensibility. The result is an exciting and dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

Director Michael Winner (The Nightcombers) lays the groundwork with Bronson in The Mechanic that would lead to the Death Wish franchise. His direction is steady and well observed. There is a certain rawness to the film—highlighted by a scene where the two hitmen watch a woman slowly bleed to death to get attention from her uncaring lover. In addition, the film is brave, taking chances, such as having no dialogue in the first fifteen minute sequence as we watch a sniper killing.

The editing supports this with very methodical cuts, gaining momentum as the story unravels.

Charles Bronson (Death Wish), one of the Silver Screen’s all-time best tough guys, plays “Arthur Bishop”-- a steely-eyed man of few words and unassuming demeanor. But not far below that calm surface is a calculating killer for hire. Although far from sentimental, there is some warmth in Bishop’s blood. He lives his life by a certain coda—almost honorably.

As “Steve McKenna,” Jan-Michael Vincent (TV’s Airwolf) delivers one of his strongest performances as a California golden boy-surfer-sociopath who is generally bored by his affluent existance. He follows Bishop’s path in hopes that killing for kicks will fill the void in his life. His ice-cold nonchalant attitude is jarring and quite off-putting. He may only be the young sidekick, but he has his own agenda.

The Mechanic is a film that illustrates a changing mindset in American cinema of the 1970s. A movie that strives to be unapologetic and that deals with the moral quagmires of the age. If nothing else, it stands out as one of the finest “assassin” stories to come along, before its release and since.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Feb 3, 2009 1:10pm
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