hard to believe but the mechanic (1972) is actually the first charles bronson movie i’ve seen from beginning to end without commercials. based on what i know of his screen persona and his most famous series, it’s a pleasant little surprise.
instead of the somber one-man vigilante justice avenger from the death wish series(three of which also directed by michael winner), bronson plays authur bishop, a somber hitman for “the organization.” the opening hit shows him studying his target from across the street, slowly planning everything out. it’s a silence 15+ minute sequence, as per 70s (action) films are required to do. it’s extremely well done and at the same time, makes you curious what he’s doing, how he’s going to do it, and how everything is going to work together. it works out beautifully in stunning silence.
the rest of the film follows him and a young protege he takes on. without giving away any plot details, this young follower(jan-michael vincent) is not just some guy on the street. it’s an interesting relationship that you don’t see often in an action film, especially nowadays. there are some amazing car chase and action sequences. as per another 70s film rule, there’s a way-too-long party scene with a bunch of hippies. though the suicidal hippie girl scene elevates this movie to a whole another level. there’s a somewhat laughable climax to the pretty amazing motorcycle chase that would be totally laughable taken out of context.
the major complaint i have is that the third act doesn’t quite satisfied nor logical. right after the point where the mechanic discovered a betrayal. given what we know about his character, it almost seems like there are scenes that were cut out to make the running time a perfect 99 minutes. there are talks of an alternate ending, which is not available on the region 1 dvd nor netflix. but even with that ending, some extra scenes seem to be required. the final credits seem especially rushed. in fact, i missed some plot points right after my first viewing that i didn’t realize until i read some internet writings, and even then, i’m still not totally convinced that they were intentional. the ending, as it stands, feels a little too twilight zone-ish to me. there’s also a not too subtle foreshadowing karate match scene, where the old disciplined old master fights with the new hotshot who’s “cowboy” way that’s also a standard of 70s films.
as an action junkie since the 80s, there are a lot to admire in the 1972 mechanic despite its flaws. the best parts of this version were the quiet moments and the relationship between bronson and vincent. the pre-cgi action scenes are also more realistic than any special effects they can do nowadays. there are also some nice touches that michael winner used that i can’t imagine being in the new version. instead of just using sound to prepare us for the next scene, he actually uses both audio and visual for the next scene, which effectively make me feel what bronson was feeling in that particular scene(the aquarium scene), and create a psychedelic feel at the same time. it’s by no means a timeless classic, since this is how they do action during those “golden age of cinema,” but it’s not near the same league as say, the french connection, dirty harry, or bullit. at the same time, it does seem to have inspired latter films like leon the professional, heat, and grosse pointe blank, ronin, the american…just to name the few that popped into my head during the movie.
the remake starring jason statham is out this week. i can’t imagine it being a close remake since they can’t seem to make a jason statham movie without turning it into a franchise(based on the original character, it seems to be more suitable for some quiet loner type like seagal than statham). i also can’t imagine contemporary audience(and filmmakers) would have the patience to put up with a jason statham movie where he spends 15 minutes in preparation without dialogue or narration. these days, they don’t seem to think audience are curious enough that things can stay a mystery for more than ten seconds. people must know what someone’s thinking and doing 100% of the time. and things have to be taken to an exaggerated extreme. instead of prep, prep, prep, prep, explosion, now it’s prep, explosion, explosion, explosion, BIG EXPLOSION. skeptical? try watching this and that 1997 jackal remake with bruce willis and richard gere. it’s extremely rare these days when an action movie can make you curious, at least while you are watching it.
the 1972 mechanic is rated pg(!) and currently available on netflix instant