Eric Schmidt

The Mechanic (2011, Simon West)

It would be going far to say The Mechanic almost succeeds. There’s not very much it could succeed at–while a remake, the film could have been another in star Jason Statham’s Transporter franchise; there’s nothing distinctive about it. Except maybe Mark Isham’s awful score.

The film opens with some of director West’s worst work. Luckily, he tones down his rapid cuts after the pre-title sequence (which clears up whether he makes bad choices intentionally… he does). He never establishes a tone; even in Panavision, he keeps close to the actors and the New Orleans setting is wasted. But he does approach the low end of bland incompetence, an achievement for him.

It helps having Statham around. Statham’s made this film before; not just the Transporter series, but basically everything he headlines. The scenes with him and Ben Foster show what a waste the dumb action genre is for Statham. He can hold his own with Foster, who–and The Mechanic is just another example of it–is the finest character actor of his generation and probably the last too.

Richard Wenk’s script has some fine little moments for Foster and an action scene every seven minutes or so. It’s not clear if Lewis John Carlino (who wrote the original and is credited here as co-writer) actually contributed anything to this version or if the filmmakers didn’t want to call it a remake.

Foster and Statham make it pass easier than it should… but the ending’s still crap.



Directed by Simon West; screenplay by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino, based on a story by Carlino; director of photography, Eric Schmidt; edited by T.G. Herrington and Todd E. Miller; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Richard Lassalle; produced by René Besson, Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Rob Cowan, Marcy Drogin, Avi Lerner, John Thompson, David Winkler and Irwin Winkler; released by CBS Films.

Starring Jason Statham (Arthur Bishop), Ben Foster (Steve McKenna), Tony Goldwyn (Dean), Donald Sutherland (Harry McKenna), Jeff Chase (Burke), Mini Anden (Sarah) and James Logan (Jorge Lara).

My Sassy Girl (2008, Yann Samuell)

There is a star in My Sassy Girl–and it’s not Jesse Bradford, who handles the leading romantic comedy man role effortless–it’s cinematographer Eric Schmidt, who makes New York City vibrant. There’s a lot of good in Yann Samuell’s direction (his composition is fantastic, his fast-fowarded transitions are, no shock, atrocious), but Schmidt’s cinematography brings that composition to life. There’s a soft texture to it, almost artificial, as though the filmmakers shot in Canada and put in digital backdrops (they didn’t). Schmidt’s idealized New York never looks like Hollywood New York, which is nice. Instead, it kind of looks like Ed Burns’s New York, if Burns were doing a mainstream (though not exactly, more on it later) romantic comedy. Had Burns done this romantic comedy… even made notes on a bar napkin… I wouldn’t be leading this post raving about the cinematographer.

There are two damning defects to My Sassy Girl–and not even the stupid fast-forwarded transitions, which I too would guess as one of them. In order of importance, they’re Elisha Cuthbert and the production. Cuthbert’s got a couple problems. First, she’s awful. Second, My Sassy Girl is a remake of a Korean film–and it follows enough of that film’s story to allow for comparisons to the original actress. They aren’t just unfavorable to Cuthbert, they’re withering. Cuthbert doesn’t have a single good scene in the film–there’s one moment at the end when I thought she was going to have one, but then she pulls through and doesn’t.

Some of the problem with Cuthbert–I mean, she can’t really be unappealing all the time, right, someone cast her in the film–is the production. My Sassy Girl, besides the dumb fast-forwarding transitions, maintains a very strange tone for an attempt at a Hollywood romantic comedy. Samuell’s French and apparently the producers let him do some stuff and it really doesn’t work. But those flourishes are at the beginning and are just bad exposition. The tone for the film’s big romantic comedy ending is a clingy melancholic one, almost like a tearjerker. What works in a Korean film–which had a lot of playfulness this remake flushes–does not work in an American one, not because of culture or filmmaking skill, but because this film runs ninety minutes, the original runs two hours and twenty minutes. What’s getting cut is important stuff….

A lot of the cut material would have been for Bradford, who barely has a character. He and his movie friend–because it’s unclear how they’d ever become friends–camp out on a rooftop underneath the Empire State Building. The story of how these two guys decide to camp out on a rooftop underneath the Empire State Building… a lot more interesting than anything going on in the film. Too bad it happens off screen.

Bradford manages the narration as well as can be expected, but it’s bad. At times, he almost looks embarrassed and he should be. Bradford’s performance–as well as Chris Sarandon, in a small role–make the film’s failure for legitimacy even more glaring. It’s clear the filmmakers were going for something different than the traditional romantic comedy, something staying in the spirit of the original, but it’s incompetently handled. The title makes no sense in the remake’s context (it’s a story point in the original). Such a big oversight is something I’d think screenwriter Victor Levin would notice and remedy, but he doesn’t.

It’s not a disappointment at all (in fact, once Schmidt starts shooting those New York exteriors, it’s frequently lovely… visually anyway), just because it opens so poorly and has to get better. And Cuthbert’s bad from the start, so there’s no expectation she’ll get any better. At least it’s something standard handled with a more artful touch.

And Bradford does make a lot of it worthwhile.



Directed by Yann Samuell; screenplay by Victor Levin, based on the film by Kwak Jae-Young and the novel by Kim Ho-sik; director of photography, Eric Schmidt; edited by Anita Brandt-Burgoyne; music by David Kitay; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Paul Brooks, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary and Jay Polstein; released by Gold Circle Films.

Starring Jesse Bradford (Charlie Bellow), Elisha Cuthbert (Jordan Roark), Austin Basis (Leo), Chris Sarandon (Dr. Roark), Jay Patterson (Roger Bellow), Tom Aldredge (Old Man), Louis Mustillo (Doorman), Brian Reddy (Mr. Phipps) and Joanna Gleason (Aunt Sally).

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