Associated Press Modified: January 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm •  Published: January 27, 2011

Repairs needed

Jason Statham brings the mayhem again, but he could use some quality control

Tom Long

Jason Statham needs to get a tune-up, switch gears and hit the gas.

"The Mechanic," his latest killing spree dressed up as a movie, has all the explosions, gunfights and acrobatic stunts fans of his action films have come to expect.

But it also has smoldering Ben Foster as his co-star and it could have been, should have been, so much more.

Let's review: Statham surfaced in two Guy Ritchie films - "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and the underrated "Snatch" - where he played an average bloke. But by "The Transporter" he had been transformed into a balding chop-socky action hero.

Since then, he's done efficient low-grade action flicks, gonzo action flicks (the "Crank" movies), choice ensemble roles ("The Italian Job," ''The Expendables") and one solid crime caper flick ("The Bank Job"). All his movies probably make money; most could be much better.

"The Mechanic" should have been one of those much better movies simply because of the premise and Foster, who is coming off what should have been a career-changing role in "The Messenger."

Instead, the movie is a series of clumsy moves leading from one fight scene to another in a totally predictable manner.

The fight scenes are fun - Statham really knows how to shoot people when he's not beating them to death, and Foster plays an enthusiastic if consistently sneering student. But director Simon West and the multiple screenwriters don't seem to care at all about motivation or logic.

Statham plays Arthur, apparently the world's top hit man, able to kill you without making it look like murder. He's a cool, unemotional machine.

But after one particularly ugly hit he's approached by Steve (Foster), the aimless son of an old friend. Steve wants to learn how to do what Arthur does.

Knowing full well Steve is a complete hot-head with psychological problems and a temper like Vesuvius, Arthur still agrees to become his mentor.

So the training begins. This is where you'd expect a lot of technical stuff, lessons in humility and precision-thinking, weaponry, etc.

The training consists of Arthur and Steve going out in the woods and blasting away at stuff with their big guns. That's pretty much it.

Then Steve gets his first assignment. He's supposed to quietly kill some guy. Instead, he turns it into a gigantic brawl.

Why would Arthur keep him around? No good explanation is given.

By the time Steve messes up on the next assignment it's easy to think Arthur might just shoot him outright. But no, Foster has a contract and must make it to the movie's end.

The priority here, obviously, is just to move as quickly as possible from one outrageous action scene to the next. This can be done without leaving all sense behind (see last summer's "Salt"), but "The Mechanic" is too slipshod to even bother.

The thing is, Statham is actually darn good at this stuff (although maybe not so good at choosing scripts). He can do macho with a big twist of humor and his fighting skills are top notch. But he seems stuck. It's time to climb the ladder.

Statham's got films with Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Ian McShane, Javier Bardem and Christopher Walken on the way. Let's hope some of the golden stuff rubs off.

"The Mechanic" may be good enough for Jason Statham fans, but it shouldn't be good enough for Jason Statham.

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Rated R: For strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity

Running time: 92 minutes "The Mechanic" (R) Jason Statham plays a hit man who takes on apprentice Ben Foster in what should have been a much better film. Still, explosions and shootings abound. (92 minutes) GRADE: C+


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