The Mechanic (1972)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Mechanic</strong> (1972)

(In French, On TV, December 2018) It’s a tale as old as Hollywood: The remake comes out and everybody bemoans that it’s not the original. When the Jason Statham-headlined The Mechanic remake came out in 2011, I made a mental note to check the original. It took me a while, but I finally got it done years later as one French-Canadian channel had itself a nice little Charles Bronson marathon. Having seen the result, I don’t think I wasted all of these years not knowing. The Mechanic is very obviously a product of the early 1970s, with a whiff of drug-fuelled existentialism making a fairly simple action thriller get weirder than it should have been. It follows and deconstructs the lifestyle of a renowned assassin as he goes through his contracts and slowly seduces a younger man into his own way of seeing things. By necessity, our protagonist (played by Bronson) is an absolute loner—paying for call girls and quietly appreciating the expensive entertainment that his job pays for. His life gets more complicated when he’s asked to take on a younger partner, and both men’s styles clash. It’s not headed to a happy ending, but then again neither does the film have a happy middle or a happy beginning. Typically dark, grimy and off-putting for a film of its era, The Mechanic seems content to offer a counter-programming alternative to the better-known action movies of the era. Any hint of a homosexual relationship between the two lead characters is not accidental: the original script reportedly had it explicitly detailed and we can only regret the adulteration of that choice—it would have made the movie quite a bit more interesting than the one that made it to screen. In the end, what we have is a dourer Bronson vehicle that fails to impress except, perhaps, for its accidental period patina. Even though the remake wasn’t particularly remarkable, it still feels like an improvement over the original.

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