Spoilers for The Mechanic: Resurrection abound.
The Mechanic: Resurrection was a rare thing, a sequel to a remake, even more so when you factor in that its an action film - but now it has the potential to be something even rarer, possibly a sequel to a remake that in turn acts as a franchise starter. The end of the film — with arms dealer, all-round sleazeball Max Adams (Tommy Lee Jones) watching Bishop (Statham) on CCTV before saying that his days are numbered — seems to be begging for a sequel, and more situations for Statham to punch his way out of. Could this be the start of something even bigger for the underrated action star? Check out the trailer here:
The box office for the original film wasn't particularly good, yet what inspired the sequel was how well the movie played on streaming services and on late-night television. What this translates to is Statham playing well in situations when you're mother is out with friends, and your dad is bored and doesn't know what to watch on the TV. Already this generation's Seagal and Van-Damme, he appeals quite well to the old-school market who are attracted more to punch-first-talk-later stars than just about anybody else.
The original film saw Statham step into the shoes of Charles Bronson, but now Mechanic: Resurrection sees him moving out of such comfort zones and becoming his own man. This doesn't make him entirely original however. In his B-movie world, one can observe an interesting mix of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt, making Statham a curious amalgamation deserving of his own franchise. Let's look at how he is like those other three country-hopping heroes:
How He Is Like Bourne
The Mechanic: Resurrection sees Bishop hiding out on a boat docked in Rio De Janeiro, enjoying his morning cup of coffee and playing some music on a vinyl player. He doesn't want to be disturbed, he wants to live off the grid. Like Bourne, he is prepared for the day when they will come for him, so he prepares himself - every time he leaves his boat he makes sure it is remotely armed by his phone, so if anyone does touch it he can leave them dead in the water.
The prerogative for Bishop is to be untraceable, yet in an increasingly modernising world, he will always be tracked down - especially as the past never seems to be done with him either. The same goes for Bourne, who, although far more gone mentally than Bishop, is seen at the start of Jason Bourne hiding out on the Greek-Albanian border. This life as a bare-knuckle fighter doesn't last long however, as more secrets from his past come back to haunt him. Thus he is dragged back into the life he thought he had left behind. And for Bourne, the same rituals of brutal hand-to-hand combat, dodging security, and commandeering various vehicles are played out yet again — his urgency to get things done played out by frantic camerawork and fast-paced editing. The same goes for Bishop, who is roped into repeating the same thing that made the original film such a sleeper hit: assassinating people and making it look like an accident. It's not something he wants to do, but has to, in order to let the past finally leave him alone.
The similarities between Bourne and Bishop don't end there. Bishop is similar to Bourne in that he has multiple passports stashed away in case he needs to rip up one identity and try it again with a new one. They both know how to live within the cracks. The earlier Bourne films repeatedly showed our protagonist hiding out in various locales, cap over head, keeping busy, blending in. This is an essential approach in order to keep a low profile, and to get things done. They know when to make themselves visible, and know when to not be seen. Bishop, for his expert first assassination, uses this blending in as part of his tactic to kill an African warlord who runs his own prison off the Malaysian Coast. Pretending to be a renowned sex offender, he cleverly gets himself captured by the cops and carted off to this remote island. Much like Bourne would, he fits in with the regulars at this prison with ease, before finally befriending and subsequently assassinating the warlord. He jumps into the water and vanishes, an act Bourne would be proud of, having done a much similar thing at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum.
How He Is Like Bond
Of the three inspirations for Mechanic: Resurrection, Bond is the one that appeals the most to young men. He travels the world, sleeps with beautiful women, and has a license to kill. Saving the world more times than anyone can remember, he is held up as the beacon of masculinity. Yet, recent incarnations of Bond, think the torture scene in Casino Royale or the definite homoerotic tension going on in Skyfall, have seen that masculinity come under interrogation and subverted.
Whilst these changes to Bond have been more than welcomed, more traditional viewers will be looking for someone to bring back the old-school version of Bond, and who better to do that than Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop? The opening sequence, seeing Bishop taking on various thugs before jumping off a gondola onto a para-glider and flying away from his enemies, can be seen as classic Bond homage, something stressed even more by the twanging guitars in the background. Effectively enough, it introduces the theme of the plot - Bishop is getting roped back into his old life - and the main character - he's a bad ass who jumps off gondolas onto para-gliders - with equal delight, just like the best Bond films. Additionally, like the pre-00s Bond's - Craig's Bond has tried experimenting with continuity with varying success - you don't really need to know what happened in the previous film to enjoy the set up for what its worth on its own terms.
Yet every Bond hero needs his own Bond girl. With the introduction of Jessica Alba, a much needed sense of romanticism was added to the world of The Mechanic. A love interest is a sure-fire way to humanise a killer, a tactic that has been used in Bond ever since the very first instalment, despite the fact many of Bond's girls end up dead. The patter between Statham and Alba (before they inevitably sleep together) is one of the best things about the movie, their beach-side romance seemingly taking a page out of Dr No and Die Another Day.
With her kidnapping acting as motivation, the sequel to The Mechanic turned Bishop from a morally ambiguous character into a character, who although still not entirely good, is trying to do the right thing. Using Bond as inspiration, The Mechanic: Resurrection added a much needed extra dimension to Bishop's character, even if the screenplay could have done more to deepen their relationship.
The Mechanic: Resurrection didn't only evoke Bond in terms of its women. Recent Bond movies are interesting in terms of their geo-politics, as they attempt to show how in the wake of fallen regimes, despots take over and reoccupy these spaces in order to further their own ends. Think of Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace, who uses the fragility of Bolivia's political situation to gain control of the water supply, or Oberhauser in Spectre who manipulates hostilities burning up from the Arab Spring in order to get his Nine Eyes program launched.
Tommy Lee Jones' character is also in this vein - a gun runner living in Bulgaria who after the fall of communism has managed to take over most of its gun supplies and then sets up camp in a vast former Soviet bunker. Watching him take Bishop around his elaborate, vulgar home and extol the virtues of the former regime, of which he has now exploited for his own capitalist ends, is one of the more enigmatic scenes in the movie, and recalls some of the best Bonds, which always suggest places like this existing and persisting somewhere out there in the furthest-flung reaches of the earth. Further Mechanics would do well to explore these types of theatrically dressed criminals further, instead of your boring black-suited guy (Sam Hazeldine as Riah Crain) who has his own house with a pool and who may as well be a banker.
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How He Is Like Hunt
How Statham fits into the Ethan Hunt model can be seen by the way he carries out his assassinations, thoughtfully planned out to the nearest inch. The second assassination in the film seems to be a deliberate rip-off of the iconic scene from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol where Tom Cruise hangs off the Burj Khalifa. In a stroke of tactical genius, Bishop uses his high-wire abilities to crack open his targets penthouse pool, making it look like a natural breakage.
The problem that the Mechanic franchise has so far in comparison to the recent Mission Impossible films, is that whilst with Hunt's missions there is always a sense that things could go terribly wrong, and the audience feels that suspense bleed through in every scene, Bishop is seen to achieve each kill with maximum, grim efficiency. It is satisfying to see how Bishop knows exactly which gun to pick up and which knife to throw at any given moment, yet if there was a sense that he was actually in danger, like Hunt is at certain terrifying moments (think that scene in Rogue Nation where he nearly drowns), it could help us to empathise more with, and root harder for, his character.
Additionally, the use of CGI in the Mechanic skyscraper scene is painfully obvious, whereas the same scene (better done) in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol relied on Tom Cruise actually performing off the edge of that building. Cruise's own fear of falling bled into his performance, making it much more satisfying. Although Bishop is humanised a little through his interactions with Gina, when it comes down to the crucial, why-you-paid-money-to-be-there scenes, he could do with showing a lot more vulnerability.
What The Mechanic Franchise Will Need To Do To Be Successful
As it stands, The Mechanic: Resurrection could have been a lot better. Whilst there was much to praise in terms of the locations, the meticulous nature of the assassinations, and Statham being an all-round badass, it suffered from incomprehensible plotting, bad CGI, and an extremely lacklustre villain. Additionally, Tommy Lee Jones was a disappointment: not because his character was bad, but because there simply wasn't enough of him. Therefore, whilst it seemed he would be the focal point of the film, he was much like The Joker in Suicide Squad, teased a lot, but ultimately only there for about fifteen minutes.
If The Mechanic franchise wants to be a box office charting, jet-hopping extravaganza like Bond, Bourne, and Hunt, it simply needs to have a bigger budget. Whilst its budget of $40 million is fine for a tidy thriller such as the original, it simply doesn't work for the types of stunts it tries to pull off. An early fight scene in the mountaintops of Rio has a painfully bad green-screen background which takes one out of the scene even if it shows Statham burning a man's face against a BBQ grill. Compare it to the budgets of Spectre, Jason Bourne, and Rogue Nation - which cost $250 million, $120 million and $150 million respectively.
Five years ago, this kind of budget for a Statham film would be laughable, but given that Furious Seven grossed over $1.5 billion and Spy - in which he plays a hilariously bad spy - made $236 million, the time has never seemed better for more money, better screenwriters, and better directors and producers to be channeled in order to give him the hit he deserves. This can already be seen by the upcoming shark movie Meg, which is said to be allocated a budget of $150 million.
Directors would do better to play to Statham's strengths. Spy, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch prove that he can be very funny, The Transporter movies prove that he can do martial arts like the best of them, and Crank and Crank 2 prove that if he needs to go hell-for-leather he will go hell-for-leather. To reach the apotheosis of the Statham film, and by extension, the Statham franchise, a combination of all these strengths would make for a series approximate to his ability.
He needn't be glum when he can be hilarious, or relentlessly unemotional when he can be vulnerable (see: Homefront, where he plays a concerned father): he can, and should be able to create a three-dimensional character who you would be honoured to see flying, sailing, and motorbiking across various borders in order to take out the bad guys over and over again. I think if producers were to pick what works best and throw out what doesn't in the films of Bourne, Bond and Hunt, and then adapt that to work within the B-movie world of Arthur Bishop, Statham could go on to helming his own franchise even more memorable than The Transporter films, and possibly an equal to the Bourne, Bond and Mission Impossible movies.
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