The original Bronson thriller was a far more dark and weird version than the more recent Jason Statham remake. I’m not sure why the older films are more psychotic, or even if I can really say that the likes of Dirty Harry, Rat Patrol, or another Bronson vehicle Death Wish really were more openly violent than today’s thrillers, but my feeling in this case leads to me believe that audiences are being pampered more these days than they were in generations past.
The Mechanic is an assassin, who takes his orders by mail and over the phone. “Mr. Bishop, we’d like you to go ahead . . . ” and ole Chuck Bronson explodes someone while watching stone-faced from a window. It’s never enough to just put a bullet in someone’s head, so when he gets an assignment to take out his boss, he doesn’t blink, but arranges for the fellow to stroke out through a miserable show of ambush. Though, asking to be finished off, Mr. Bishop asphyxiates him with a gloved hand. Gruesome stuff even if we do know the fellow was a dirty dealer and responsible for the ruination of many lives. There’s really no way to love our protagonist.
Then the son of the deceased, a young Jan-Michael Vincent (you remember) apprentices himself to Bronson, and the pair undertake a bizarre training in shooting calculations and karate fight watching as well as being flat out callous to a cute suicidal young woman who eventually does cut herself and the fellows coldly tell her to get herself to the ER, definitely now how we like to handle suicidal folks these days. Soon the team has a job in Naples. You can tell they’re in Italy by all the Fiats on the road, and sure enough The Mechanic is filmed in Italy.
In the end, the things that are memorable are Bronson’s cold estimate of the young lady’s time to death bleeding out, “What do you weigh?” he asks her when she wonders aloud how long it’ll take to die. “But first you’ll get cold and very sleepy,” he offers academically. She curses them both out and she’s right, they are both SOBs. There’s nothing redeeming about them, their hyperbolic callousness to feeling and humanity paints them as heroes to no one but the louts of the world collecting Soldier of Fortune magazines, stockpiling weaponry, and gleefully enjoying ass-kickings.
Bronson late in life lost his mind to Alzheimer’s and didn’t even know he was Charles Bronson. Jan-Michael died last year out in Ashville, NC and is probably best remembered for Airwolf.
This film, is well worth a comparison look with the more recent Statham version if just for that look at the gritty and mean vs. the tech and the softening of the blows.