Robert Chartoff

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.

1/4

CREDITS

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).


The New Centurions (1972, Richard Fleischer)

I was going to start this post saying complementary things about Richard Fleischer, something about how his mediocrity doesn’t get in the way of the film (and the film’s melodramatic mediocrity). Then he goes too far at the end, plunging the damn thing ever further into the muck. And The New Centurions is unbearably melodramatic. Stirling Silliphant loves every convention he can find–whether it’s the early scene with the cops telling each other it isn’t like the movies or the later one where the cops talk about being new Centurions. For such an influential (more on that part in a bit), the film’s got maybe one or two good moments. Overall, it’s a failed attempt at an honest portrayal of police officers (albeit, really, really good and honest cops). Basically, it’s an episode of “Hill Street Blues,” with James Sikking and his pipe no less, with more attention paid to the home lives of the cops. The ending invalidates the whole thing–and I just checked wikipedia, the first time I’ve compared novel to film since Tess–and the ending is a filmic creation. The book’s ending seems like it might make sense.

For the majority of the film, until that absurd ending, actually, The New Centurions isn’t terrible or even bad. Silliphant’s dialogue is horrendous and the actors stumble over lines, but the plot of the film is fine. Standard and melodramatic, but fine. Some of the episodes–obviously from novel writer Joseph Wambaugh’s time on the LAPD–are really amusing.

Of the actors (not the ludicrous ones, like Erik Estrada, who’s terrible), George C. Scott probably gives the worst performance, with Jane Alexander following closely. In Alexander’s case, she’s got nothing to do. In Scott’s, he’s got something to do but it’s often crap (his character’s story arc is terrible, regardless of its realism, simply because the film doesn’t really pay any attention to him). The supporting cast is generally good–Scott Wilson’s fine, so’s Rosalind Cash; Isabel Sanford shows up in fantastic cameo. William Atherton puts in a few minutes and he’s good.

But the real surprise of New Centurions is Stacy Keach. He’s amazing. He’s got the worst dialogue in the film too, but it’s still a privilege to watch his performance. It’s one of those unbelievably good performances, indescribably good; textured, nuanced, every positive adjective in that vein one can imagine.

I can’t not mention the score. I was trying and I couldn’t. I wanted to go upbeat on Keach (I’m hoping the white space does that work). It’s a Quincy Jones score and it’s terrible, but the interesting part is he lifts some of the theme to Shaft.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Fleischer; screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Joseph Wambaugh; director of photography, Ralph Woolsey; edited by Robert C. Jones; music by Quincy Jones; produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring George C. Scott (Andy Kilvinsky), Stacy Keach (Roy), Jane Alexander (Dorothy), Scott Wilson (Gus), Rosalind Cash (Lorrie), Erik Estrada (Sergio), Clifton Jones (Whitey), Richard E. Kalk (Milton), James Sikking (Anders), Isabel Sanford (Wilma), William Atherton (Johnson), Ed Lauter (Galloway) and Dolph Sweet (Sergeant Runyon).


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