By Preston Wilder
If Mechanic: Resurrection has a theme, it might be ‘penetration’. Most of the running-time in this sequel to 2011’s The Mechanic – which was actually an unsung and superior Jason Statham vehicle – finds Mr Statham trying to infiltrate a series of forbidding fortresses: first a maximum-security Malaysian prison, then a 58th-floor eyrie in a Sydney skyscraper, then a submarine base in Varna, Bulgaria. It almost makes you wonder if the (mostly) young-male audience for the film views it through a kind of unconscious sexual prism, taking Statham’s bold scaling of impregnable bastions as a metaphor for their own romantic conquests.
Statham gets an actual romance here as well. That’s right folks, the action hero whose apparent lack of interest in women prompted a Ukrainian nymphet to exclaim “Oh! You are the gay!” in Transporter 3 has a proper relationship, with slow-dancing and banter and a bedroom scene and everything. The lucky girl is Jessica Alba, first seen being roughed up (not by Statham) on a yacht in Thailand – a fitting start to her passive role in the movie, which is mostly to be kidnapped and look distraught, though the script lets her throw the occasional ineffectual punch. Then again, even Tommy Lee Jones is wasted here, decked out in ridiculous goatee and babbling his lines as if in a rush to go home. Why did he even sign on for this? It’d make some sense if his role came in the Thai part of the movie – everyone likes a paid holiday – but in fact he’s in the Bulgarian part, so what the hell.
Statham still merits the likes of Alba and TLJ in supporting roles. He’s not quite at the likes of Claire Forlani and Peter Stormare yet – but that day won’t be long in coming if he keeps making stuff like Mechanic: Resurrection, a barely-even-glorified B-movie where the fun, as usual, lies in how unlikely everything is. The biggest chuckle comes from a colour-coded map of the world showing the four leading arms dealers by market share, allowing Statham to conclude that one arms dealer has hired him to kill the others (it’s not clear if this map is officially compiled or just something he found at armsdealers.com), though the bit where he hides behind a rubber dinghy to protect against machine-gun fire also made me smile. Oh, and how come the villain’s boat is always close at hand, whether our hero is in Australia or Bulgaria? It takes a while to sail from one to the other, you know.
None of that matters. What’s more important is the structure, which is bitty and not very satisfying. Arthur the ‘mechanic’ (played by Statham), a professional hitman, started life as an orphan, sold to an East End gangster who specialised in training child soldiers (I assume this was before the East End got gentrified, when child soldiers roamed Peckham High Street raping and pillaging) – but Crain, a fellow orphan from the old days, has now tracked him down, and demands that Arthur carry out three ‘kills’ in return for his kidnapped girlfriend. The first is an African warlord in the aforementioned Malaysian prison, perched on a high ocean cliff surrounded by shark-infested waters, the second an Aussie tycoon, the third TLJ in Bulgaria. “I wish you… bonne chance,” says the villain airily, having laid out his terms, lapsing into French for no reason at all.
The rest, so to speak, is penetration – but the three consecutive missions mean the film never really takes off as a story. Still, there’s enough fun detail to make it painless. Arthur enters the prison by posing as an infamous sex criminal (all it takes is a tattoo and a fake passport), bumps off his quarry then dives off the cliff into the sea, dabbing on a little shark repellent – which he bought before going to prison – for those shark-infested waters. As for the Aussie tycoon, one look at his “cantilevered swimming pool” makes it clear how the ‘kill’ is likely to be carried out. It’s just as elaborate and ludicrous as you hope it’ll be.
Fortunately, Jason Statham is a charming host. “Nothing’s changed,” he notes happily, contemplating his Thai hideaway – and that’s part of the charm, despite his fighting prowess he’s a quiet man, a homebody (we’ve already seen him lovingly tending to his vinyl collection); all he really wants is to be dead, having faked his own death before being forcibly ‘resurrected’. Then he meets Jessica Alba on that beach in Thailand – and the film is so over-excited it adds a few completely gratuitous shots of Ms Alba swimming around underwater, looking predictably lovely in her blue bikini. Come on guys, can’t we at least find some flimsy narrative pretext to drool over the leading lady’s body? Like I said, penetration.
DIRECTED BY Dennis Gansel
STARRING Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones
France/US 2016 99 mins