Saturday, February 5, 2011

Free tip bad guys: Jason Statham is not the guy you kill, he's the guy you buy.

I saw The Mechanic earlier this week, and as you can surmise from the lack of review, it's not particularly worth commenting on. It's not a bad movie, per-se. It's relatively well-acted and the first two-thirds are more character-driven drama that action thriller. It's always nice to see Donald Sutherland, even if once again, he barely makes it past the first reel. And, in this day and age, it is always nice to see a violent R-rated action picture that isn't afraid to BE R-rated. That's actually one of my only real complaints, regarding the CGI blood. Yes, like a lot of action films of late, the blood is almost entirely CGI. Unlike some, I don't have a problem with that on principle. My theory is that if you know you can digitally remove the blood at a later date should the MPAA cry foul, then you can toss in that much more initially. Centurion uses the convenience of CGI blood to be a genuine gorefest. Alas, The Mechanic does not take advantage of this tool. Point being, it earns its R-rating, but it's not what you'd call blood drenched. A minor quibble, but worth noting none the less. But what we have here is another movie where the bad guys don't know when to walk away.

Point being, Jason Statham's Arthur Bishop is your very best assassin. And for reasons I won't spoil, the bad guys (personified in this case by a game Tony Goldwin) decide that he is a liability. Knowing that this man is the absolute best at what he does, do they A) try to make a deal that will involve Bishop walking away embittered but set for life, or B) send in a bunch of other assassins to try to kill the guy that they know full-well is 'the best there is'? I get that the bad guys can be arrogant, but surely you don't rise to the top of a criminal empire by being stupid. Yes, Bishop learns that his big bosses are not as virtuous as he thought, but even that could have been prevented. The only reason Bishop discovers the horrible truth about everything is that, when he catches up with someone who knows the story, said informant doesn't just lie. You're a bad guy. You know that Bishop is suspicious, but lacking any real concrete information. Here's an idea: lie! Tell the bald-headed avenger the same lie that got the whole film started. And if that doesn't work, don't send in the hit-squad right off-the-bat. Sending him heavily-armed commandos should be the last thing you try, not the first.

Ironically, something even dumber happens in The Transporter, the film that established Statham as a B-movie action star back in 2002. In the first act of this one, he has successfully delivered a package and is walking away with payment in hand. Said bad guy decides to also give Frank Martin a second package, this one containing a bomb. Why does the bad guy decide to kill Mr. Martin? Because Martin 'looked in the package', which is a no-no in the criminal transport industry. Fair enough, but is that really worth killing him over? He did the job, he took your money, he's walking away. A criminal scheme that otherwise would have gone off without a hitch is now blown to smithereens because you tried to kill the delivery man, who then spends the rest of the movie trying to kill you.

Free tip, bad guys: unless he's actually on the side of legal righteousness, don't try to kill Statham. If you've hired him for an illicit job, just pay the man his money and offer to write a letter of recommendation. Don't be all "But... he knows too much!" Who is he going to tell? He's a hitman and/or a transporter of criminals and ill-gotten gains. Just pay the man, perhaps with a little 'don't squeal' bonus in the form of more cash, not bombs. Otherwise, you're only writing your own death warrant, people. Remember: Jason Statham is not the guy you kill, he's the guy you buy!

Scott Mendelson

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