An aging hitman befriends a young man who wants to be a professional killer. Eventually it becomes clear that someone has betrayed them.
Between 1972 and 1985, director Michael Winner and actor Charles Bronson created six films together. Their best-known title is their fourth film, 'Death Wish,' with Bronson playing Paul Kersey, a man driven to become a vigilante on the streets of New York after three hoodlums destroy his family. Two years earlier, Winner and Bronson's second film would find the actor playing Arthur Bishop, a different type of killer, one who worked for criminals and for profit in 'The Mechanic'.
Winner shows great confidence in the material, in Bronson's on-screen charisma, and in the audience's ability to stay engaged as the film opens with a 15-minute sequence sans dialogue. Bishop is shown renting a room in a crummy part of Los Angeles. He takes pictures into an apartment of an older man across the street and when he knows the man isn't in, he enters and begins to set up a number of different elements, in the stove, in a book, and in a box of teabags. Later that evening, Bishop, and the audience, watch as his elaborate scheme, one that would make Rube Goldberg proud, unfolds just as he planned.
The result is stunning. While it makes for an impressive moment in the film, it also reveals character information that Bishop is an unusual hit man. Anyone could have hid in the man's bathroom or poisoned his tea, but Bishop is overcompensating for something. His plan was needlessly complex and dangerously reckless. It makes the viewer wonder if the bit of staging earlier, where Bishop stares out his room with binoculars in so obvious a manner it's a wonder he isn’t spotted, was poor planning by the character and not that of the director, which is how it appears before knowing anything about Bishop.
Although the payment for his work allows for a very comfortable lifestyle, Bishop lives a solitary life devoid of relationships and attachments, which taxes him and causes him to take medication. "Big Harry" McKenna (Keenan Wynn) appears to be his pal, but when Harry is the next assignment, Bishop has no qualms. Before Bishop is given the task, he meets Harry's son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent). Harry hints at a strained relationship between Bishop and his father, so it's not a surprise when that type of bond forms between Bishop and Steve. Screenwriter Lewis John Carlino had originally wanted a homosexual relationship between the two characters, but couldn't get that movie made. During the scene where Steve is out late and Bishop is home waiting, it felt like Bishop was a concerned parent but he also came across like a jealous lover.
Steve is interested in Bishop's line of work and Bishop sees Steve may have what it takes. As part of the training, they attend a martial arts demonstration between Yamoto, an old master, and Koy, a young upstart with new tricks. The scene foreshadows what's ahead for our main characters. Bishop's boss is angry Steve has been brought in for training. As Bishop prepares for an assignment in Italy, he learns Steve has been given his first job and he is the target. Because it's so big, Bishop brings Steve along on the Italian job, amplifying the tension during the intense action scenes, as the viewer anticipates one of them to make a move against the other. The plot finally concludes with a very satisfying conclusion that stays true to the characters.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Twilight Time has released 3000 copies of 'The Mechanic' on a 50GB Region Free Blu-ray disc in a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a six-page booklet containing notes by Julie Kirgo.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. The film opens with a very grainy opening shot on the sky. After Bronson rises into the frame, the grain normalizes. There are a few minor flaws in the print as instances of hair, specks of dirt, and white flecks pop up throughout. The white letters during the opening credits have a bit of a bleed, but it doesn't happen with other instances of white.
During the opening sequence in downtown L.A., there are mostly dull, faded colors. Bright hues appear with regularity soon after Bishop completes his job, as seen at his house and in the Italian countryside. Basically, the brighter the light in a scene, the brighter the hues. In fact, one color shines brightly as Bishop's first job is completed. Blacks are adequate.
Some scenes deliver good details. When he is flown to see his boss, the plane's exterior exhibits clear textures. Many of the objects have sharp, defined edges, but some close-ups of Bronson appear soft, like a technique used for filming actresses. Another scene, when Bishop offers to bring Steve into the job, finds a soft gauze effect being used. It is noticeable when he lights a match and there's a round glow in place of the flame. At roughly 26 minutes in, during a Bronson close-up, there's a bit of light flicker.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Mono and sounded free from age or damage. The dialogue is always clear and is well balanced with the other elements in the mix. Sound effects of footsteps sound flat, but the motorcycles racing around Italy come through with power. The score has nice presence. The track's dynamic range is narrow at times but the loud end gets pushed by the explosions, which deliver a very good boom for mono.
Geared towards the male demo, 'The Mechanic' is an enjoyable flick thanks to impressive action sequences, Bronson's presence, and a script that creates an engaging story. In need of a restoration, the high-def presentation is merely acceptable, so expectations should be set accordingly until a company decides to make the effort.