The Mechanic: Resurrection Ends Summer on an Unceremonious Thud

What happened, Jason Statham? When you came out with the original Transporter film, it felt like a charismatic new action star had been born. But that was 12 years ago, and since then it seems that you have resigned yourself to the same cliched films about anti-heroes who choose to kick their way out of any foreseeable problems. The latest exercise in mediocrity is the The Mechanic: Resurrection, a predictable action romp that marks the lowest point in the careers of everyone involved.

In yet another story of “action hero saves his damsel in distress girlfriend,” Resurrection‘s plot stands apart from its competition by doing everything it can to offer nothing new. Character motivations are bluntly explained, providing little to no further intrigue into our protagonists, and thus no room for emotional attachment. Villains run the gambit of Russian, Asian and African stereotypes, often resorting to bizarrely outdated stereotypes so as to not stray from what audiences have already seen in older, better films (at one point, an African warlord/shaman literally explains that “My juju shows me everything”). It’s fine for a film to understand what it is, but to try so little to make anything about the plot unique causes  Resurrection to feel that much more wasteful of the audiences time.

Worsening the by-numbers plot is a cast that simply doesn’t try. Statham sleepwalks through the same quiet, professional badass he’s portrayed for years, offering no distinction to make you forget this is just Jason Statham playing Jason Statham. Jessica Alba is a bore as Statham’s girlfriend, a stock forgettable damsel who only serves to motivate our her and occasionally provide the standard bikini shot to try and shamelessly lure in younger viewers. A special mention must be given to Tommy Lee Jones, who at least chooses to overact his bad performance, making him an enjoyable train wreck to watch. Much like the rest of the film, the remainder of the cast serve only to fill out typical bad guy roles that even the 80’s grew out of,  only adding further to Resurection’s simplicity and tedium.

You would at least expect a Jason Statham action flick to try and present something worthwhile in its action, but the film seems especially lacking here. Statham delivers the same roundhouse kicks to the same goons over and over again throughout the film, providing little variation or visually interesting elements to make fights stand out. The henchmen Statham fights are all the same poor aiming, unable to fight cannon fodder that don’t so much make him look like a badass, but instead displays how inept our villains are, further adding to Mechanic’s tedium. With how prevalent  good action is to find, even in television offerings like the Netflix Marvel shows, Resurrection’s lackluster action exemplifies the lack of effort present in all other aspects in the film.

A soulless, forgettable film, there’s nothing here to recommend anyone go out and see, even for fans of cheesy b-films. As a former fan of Statham’s work, it’s sad to see him reach this point in his career, where it’s clear that paychecks take priority over innovation. Were anyone really trying, you could at least expect to have a few drinks and laugh at yet another Statham bomb. As it currently stands, however, The Mechanic: Resurrection seems ironically titled, as it marks the final nail in the downward spiral of Statham’s career.
Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 3 Failed Career Resurections out of 10

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Don’t Breathe Offers Near-Flawless Thrills

The state of the horror genre has been more then lacking, as of late. What few shinning gems that come out are quickly milked, often churning out uninspired sequels that fail to deliver on the strengths of the original. And with the lack of new concepts, we’re more likely to be shown a reboot or continuation of something we already saw, rather then something new or unexpected. Luckily, in comes Don’t Breathe, directed by the Evil Dead remake’s Fede Alvarez, which manages salvage the disappointing summer movie season with excellent filmmaking and performances throughout.

The films central concept, which sees a group of house robbers hunted in the home of a blind man they planned to steal from, offers a scenario very similar to 2009’s The Collector, and smartly focuses on challenging the audience’s loyalties. Despite our protagonist’s motivations for stealing being noble enough, the film never lets us forget that they are criminals, and invite the horrors thrusted upon them once they attempt to rob this blind man in his home. Likewise, while the blind man in question is more then justified to defend himself against his would-be robbers, there comes a point where he goes out of his way to inflict pain and misery upon the assailants, making him as morally conflicted as they are. Its in this middle ground of rooting for and against both parties that Don’t Breathe feels less like a film, and more like a real life scenario, drawing audiences in further and making for a more tense and involving horror film.

With so much emphasis on this middle ground, its fortunate that the small cast delivers such believable performances. Evil Dead‘s Jane Levy delivers a more human take on the typical “final girl” trope, being confident while still remaining realistically vulnerable. Likewise, Dylan Minnette does well as the groups voice of reason, despite not being given as much motivation for his actions. The real standout here is Stephen Lang as the titular blind man, and while he doesn’t often speak, Lang’s acting through body language makes his blindness seem realistic, even as he chases down the films protagonists with lethal precision. Lang is tasked with delivering on many of the film’s darker moments, and despite how far the film takes this material, you never feel like Lang is giving a performance, but rather embodying a broken, tragic figure, complicating the audiences allegiances that much further. 

Yet even with the remarkable talent on display in front of the camera, it’s director Fede Alvarez and his sense of style that shines through the film’s other strengths. Though a decrepit house is not the most original setting, Alvarez’s creative cinematography helps the setting feel like a character all its own. An early tracking shot in particular helps point out key locations early on to help viewers familiarize themselves with it early on, without spoiling the film’s many twists and turns. The highlight of the film is a basement chase filmed in pitch black, forgoing the usual green night vision look in favor of a more frightening and believable viewpoint. Throughout the 90 minute runtime, it almost feels like Alvarez is constantly experimenting with new ways to film and track each shot, making for a horror film that can also be surprisingly beautiful to look at.

Equally important to the film is its excellent sound design. With so much of the tension based around our protagonist’s not being heard, the sound mixing in Don’t Breathe helps make every creak in the floor feel like a thunderstorm, further adding to the tension. There also never comes a point where a character seems to be breathing to loudly or making too much noise, helping the film remain believable for why certain characters remain hidden in certain scenes. On the opposite sound spectrum, gunshots are frighteningly realistic, with the sound of bullets loudly tearing through flesh and debris adding heavily to the weight and impact of every round fired. Simply put, for as beautiful of a film as Don’t Breathe is to watch, just as much work has clearly been put into how the film sounds.

The only major flaw with the film presents itself in the third act, but does simplify a movie whose strength was originally in its deep complexity. Without getting into spoilers, a certain twist on a character is revealed to completely change the audience’s thoughts on them. Because of this, the previously mentioned middle ground between whom to root for is thrown away, in favor of more clear cut villains and heroes. The film also gets decidedly darker, going into one particular scene that makes a character all but irredeemable; what’s sadder is that you can clearly see how this darker plot point could be easily removed without impacting the overall plot. What may have felt like a natural turn of events during filming sadly comes off as an attempt to be edgy that detracts the from Don’t Breathe‘s better moments.

With its excellent production values, stellar performances and questionable morality, Don’t Breathe stands as further proof of Alvarez’s place as one of the great horror filmmakers of our time. Playing on what scares people is difficult enough, but managing to balance that with an audience’s empathy while trying to make everything stay plausible is an even more impressive feat. Avoid spoiling the film for yourself as much as possible, For Don’t Breathe manages to truly impress and innovate when you….don’t see it coming.

 

Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 9 Bad Jokes to End Reviews on out of 10