Thursday, September 1, 2016


(US - 2016)

Directed by Dennis Gansel. Written by Philip Shelby and Tony Mosher. Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, John Cenatiempo, Toby Eddington, Femi Elufowoju Jr, Anteo Quintavalle, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam. (R, 98 mins)

The 2011 Jason Statham remake of THE MECHANIC was close enough to the 1972 Charles Bronson original that the older film's screenwriter Lewis John Carlino still retained a WGA-mandated co-writing credit despite retiring from movies in the late '80s. Five years later, Statham is back with MECHANIC: RESURRECTION, a film so ludicrous that it makes his own MECHANIC look like a PBS documentary on professional assassins. Right from the opening "Summit Premiere" logo, it's pretty clear that VOD was the original destination for this woefully cheap-looking sequel that's probably only getting a shot in wide release because of Statham's resurgence as a supporting actor in hits like the Melissa McCarthy comedy SPY and as the villain in last year's FURIOUS 7. MECHANIC: RESURRECTION has a lot of location footage shot around the world, but closeups of the actors are against an obvious greenscreen at Avi Lerner's Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria, with blurry and hazy CGI carelessly added in post. Background shots of bodies of water seem curiously still and there's always a halo-like outline around the actors, who sometimes look composited into the shot. Explosions look like pre-2000 CGI and the carelessness extends to typos throughout, whether an official document describes a sex offender as "extremly" dangerous or a character named Max Adams is mentioned in a newspaper headline reading "Max Adam's Financial Records..." All that silliness aside, MECHANIC: RESURRECTION is harmless fun and the kind of entertaining junk food that's hard for Statham fans to resist. As far as Statham sequels go, it's better than the anything-goes obnoxiousness of the unwatchable CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, recognizing its own silliness and more or less approaching it with a DEATH WISH 3 mentality that's right in line with Cannon-like ethos of Avi Lerner's Golan-Globus cover band Millennium Films.

Picking up a few years after faking his death at the end of the first film, professional killer-for-hire Arthur Bishop (Statham) is in hiding in Rio (cue establishing aerial shot of Christ the Redeemer statue accompanied by the caption "Rio de Janeiro, Brazil") when he has to dispose of a team of goons in the employ of former associate-turned-international criminal Crain (Sam Hazeldine as Almost Hugo Weaving). Fleeing to a Thai beach resort owned by his friend Mei (Michelle Yeoh), Bishop accidentally kills a guy attacking Gina (Jessica Alba). Of course, it was all a set-up: Gina is an American humanitarian aid worker based in Cambodia, and Crain threatened to kill all of the kids at an orphanage if she didn't lure Bishop into his trap. Crain wants Bishop to kill three men and he's holding Gina hostage to ensure his cooperation. The targets are Sudanese warlord Krill (Femi Elufowoji Jr), currently residing in an impenetrable island prison 70 miles off the coast of Malaysia; Adrian Cook (Toby Eddington), a billionaire Australian businessman (cue establishing aerial shot of the Sydney Opera House with a caption reading "Sydney, Australia") running a lucrative human trafficking operation; and Max Adams (a slumming Tommy Lee Jones), an eccentric American arms dealer based in Bulgaria. All of the hits have to look like accidents, and when Bishop loses all faith in Crain keeping his word, he decides to take matters into his own hands and turn the tables on his employer, who wants the three targets gone because they're his competition.

Co-written by Philip Shelby, who scripted the absurd SURVIVOR, with Milla Jovovich vs. Pierce Brosnan, the latter a deadly assassin known as "The Watchmaker," MECHANIC: RESURRECTION marks the English-language debut of German director Dennis Gansel, who made the 2010 female vampire import WE ARE THE NIGHT. Gansel relies on standard quick-cut/shaky-cam action scenes that do little to distinguish himself as anything other than a hired gun who saw the project as a foot in the door to the American movie industry. It doesn't help that it looks as chintzy and corner-cutting as any late-period, circa 1990 Cannon production. The only thing really distinctive about MECHANIC: RESURRECTION is Arthur Bishop's newfound superhuman abilities. He can hold his breath underwater for incredible amounts of time. He can apparently delete himself from recorded footage, as when he orchestrates a killing involving a man falling out of a glass-bottom swimming pool at the top of skyscraper, and it's caught by onlookers with the footage going viral, and yet Bishop rappelling out of the way mere seconds earlier somehow doesn't appear. He can tally up an astronomical body count with nary a scratch on himself. He's also incredibly prepared: he can arrive anywhere in the world in a middle-of-nowhere location and already have a case filled with cash, phones, and passports under a floorboard of a shack or buried in the sand, waiting for him. He can arrive in these places with nothing on him and spontaneously set up an impromptu laboratory with chemicals, beakers, protractors, and other engineering accoutrements to create the gadgets he needs to pull off his jobs.

It also helps that the bad guys in the film employ the world's least-attentive henchmen, all of whom make it easy by conveniently looking the other way when Bishop approaches them for the kill.  That is, when they aren't doing things like standing next to two awkwardly-placed red gas cans on a landing pad that are just waiting to be shot at for another CGI explosion courtesy of the Bulgarian clown crew at Worldwide FX. Visual effects have always been the Achilles' heel of Millennium/Nu Image, who can corral enough money to lure big name talent but never could get special effects to advance beyond the level of a straight-to-VHS Frank Zagarino vehicle from 1996. Worldwide FX seemed to be stepping up their game with their convincing work in recent Millennium fare like STONEHEARST ASYLUM and CRIMINAL, but they apparently farmed the work on this one out to the unpaid interns. The effects here are embarrassingly bad, even if the film cost a relatively low-budget--by today's standards--$40 million, most of which probably went to Statham, Alba, a barely-utilized Yeoh, and a visibly inconvenienced Jones, who doesn't even appear until 70 minutes in and lets a couple of clip-on earrings do most of his acting for him. Turning Arthur Bishop into a hybrid of James Bond and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE's Ethan Hunt isn't a bad idea, and after a clunky and needlessly convoluted opening 20 minutes, MECHANIC: RESURRECTION--obviously a comedy--finds its footing and becomes stupidly likable thanks to an engaged Statham doing what he does best.

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