Nov 4, 2008

The Mechanic (1972)

Once Upon a Time in the West IS the greatest film ever made, for those who aren't already aware of this fact. And as such, this should qualify as my favourite Charles Bronson movie. But my favourite "Bronson vehicle", that is all of the action films in the 70s and 80s that were specifically made for his persona (rather than the film above being simply a larger canvas that Charlie immersed in), would be The Mechanic. Therefore, on the date of his birthday (egad- he would be 86 today), I felt it fitting to have another, long-lost look at this crackerjack action film.

This is a marvelous example of Bronson's appeal, and a reminder of the diverse roles he was still playing before doing one routine Cannon film after another, still gunning down bad guys in his 70's. (In current cinema, if the trailer for Gran Torino is to be believed, it appears that Clint Eastwood is now suffering from Charles Bronson Disease.) In The Mechanic, Bronson plays the hitman Arthur Bishop, who recruits a young protege (Jan-Michael Vincent) to help out once he realizes the stress of the job is becoming too much. The organization, however, is displeased with this arrangement. Lewis John Carlino's script digs deeper than simply providing a cat-and-mouse action thriller (despite that there is plenty of action and thrills), and provides a three-dimensional portrait of Bishop's life. Between assignments, we see Bishop in his comfortable abode, in robes, smoking a pipe, listening to classical music, and admiring fine art. Yet he is still emotionally hollow. Perhaps the most telling scene is a brief interlude with a prostitute (played by Mrs. Bronson, Jill Ireland), who has to write for him some memories to have!

Michael Winner (who made many Bronson films) keeps the film going at an exciting pace, and also has a great eye for detail (love that opening where we see how intricately Bishop plots someone's death). Jerry Fielding's jazz score is also great, definitely giving this picture a vintage 70's feel. This is much more engaging than many of the Bronson pictures that were to come, is a reminder of the time when its star was still getting unique roles.

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