Jason Statham isn’t so much an actor as he is a brand. When you go to McDonald’s you know you can expect the two all beef patties, special sauce and the sesame seed bun to taste the same whether you’re in Toronto or Hong Kong. It’s that kind of brand management that has made Statham a star. You know what to expect from his movies—rippling abs, some high kicking action, his trademarked facial stubble and loads of explosions. It’s a simple formula but one that works for his fans. Perhaps the advertising slogan for his new film, “The Mechanic,” should be “New, But Not Improved.”
This time around Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a highly trained and highly dangerous hit man. “Pulling a trigger is easy,” he says in his distinctive rumble, “the best jobs are the ones where no one even knows you where there.” Like the character he plays in “The Transporter” movies, he’s detached, precise and no nonsense. When his mentor and friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is killed Arthur turns mentor for Harry’s troubled son (Ben Foster), teaching him his deadly trade.
What Statham lacks in range he makes up for in muscle tone. His well crafted on-screen persona is equal parts stoic masculinity and lithe athletic ability. He’s Charles Bronson (who starred in the original “The Mechanic” in 1972) with better moves, a man of action and few words in the mold of Clint Eastwood, if Clint had a better roundhouse kick. In “The Mechanic,” his 27th film since 1998 (and he has at least five more in the pipeline), he doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen him do before, but no matter, he simply does the things we expect him to do. That’s what brands do, and as movie brands go these days he’s about as reliable as it gets.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s brand, for example, tries to tread similar ground, but every now and again veers off course with a kid’s flick or comedy, but not Statham. “The Mechanic” and his other films are so true to brand they’re almost interchangeable. Only the character names, and, occasionally the facial expressions, change.
Is “The Mechanic” a good movie? If you liked “The Transporter,” then yes, you’ll like “The Mechanic.” If not, then perhaps the Statham brand is not for you.