Michael Winner’s The Mechanic begins with a sensational 15 ½-minute wordless sequence as its title character antihero sets up and executes a hit. Sadly, it’s mostly downhill from there, but there are odd beats and occasional startling sequences ahead which do give this 1970s thriller a unique identity and provide it with decent replay value. While the scripting goes awry later on and suspense rather evaporates for too-long stretches of time, the movie leaves one with the feeling that an adequate movie might well have been a brilliant one with better writing and clearer cohesion between the film’s first and second halves.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/10/2014
Charles Bronson stars as Arthur Bishop, a methodical and experienced hit man who takes his orders from a big boss (unnamed in the movie but played by Frank DeKova). Living a comfortable and mostly solitary life with an occasional visit to a hooker (Jill Ireland) who knows what he likes, Bishop must deal fairly regularly now with anxiety attacks, and when the son (Jan-Michael Vincent as Steve McKenna) of one of his marks (Keenan Wynn) comes looking for some tips from the master, Bishop takes him on as an apprentice. Steve’s arrival is most fortuitous because the boss has a job that involves rubbing out three young bikers which will require assistance. Due to Steve’s inexperience, the job is not handled in Bishop’s clean and traceless style but instead rather sloppily requiring a chase through properties and grounds in order to extinguish their prey. The pair’s next job is going to take them to Naples, Italy, but right before they leave, Bishop stumbles on some papers in Steve’s abode showing that Bishop has been marked for Steve to eliminate.That wonderfully staged and shot sequence at the beginning of the movie that tells us just about everything we need to know concerning Bishop’s business and his utter professionalism is one of the best extended sequences in all of Michael Winner’s filmography. What a pity that Lewis John Carlino’s script tries to incorporate some cheap comic action with the motorcycles and feats of derring-do with rifles and machine guns and chases in Naples that take the movie far, far away from its roots as a gritty suspense film. Once we know that Steve is going to attempt to kill Bishop (and that Bishop is aware of his assignment), one would think the film’s final third would be almost unbearably tense with Bishop having to keep one eye on his target and one eye on Steve. In fact, just the opposite is the case as the Naples sojourn practically forgoes their rivalry and proceeds with a singularly uninteresting hit on a boat that’s very unimaginatively staged and shot. The expected getaway sequence after that is equally banal (lots of gunfire and explosions, however unlikely the caper plays out) with a quick wrap-up as both main characters meet their successive fates. Elsewhere in the somewhat ramshackle film, there’s a sequence where Steve’s devoted girl friend (Linda Ridgeway) commits suicide before him in an attempt to melt his icy heart (it doesn’t work), and Bishop’s own unusual encounter with a very passionate woman (Jill Ireland) seems sappy until screenwriter Carlino adds his own neat little twist to what earlier seemed completely out of place and character for our laconic hit man. There is also smack in the middle of the movie a seemingly unnecessary scene of a karate match between a young up-and-comer and a master where the young man takes a cheap shot to gain dominance over the older fighter until the veteran turns the tables and gains the upper hand delivering a severe beat down. It’s only later that we realize that this is the film’s theme being played out only in different garb.Charles Bronson’s terse yet efficient command of this kind of character gives the film its principal memorable quality, and he’s always an interesting screen presence even when things around him are headed off the rails. Jan-Michael Vincent has the arrogance of youth going for him as the calculating, duplicitous Steve. Keenan Wynn has a couple of brief scenes as “Big Harry,” a big shot brought down to size though Wynn seems a bit brittle and uncomfortable in his brief appearance. Jill Ireland and Linda Ridgeway as the only two actresses of note in the film basically get one good scene apiece which they do all they can with.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. While very much looking like the gritty movies of the early 1970s, that means there are occasional moments where sharpness isn’t razor-edged and black levels that can be a bit murky with an increase in the film’s grain structure. Color is solid throughout (Naples looks vivaciously gorgeous) with flesh tones very natural and appealing. There are only random bits of dust and debris to be seen. Most of the image is clear of artifacts of any kind. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 audio mix sounds exactly the way one would expect a mono soundtrack of the era to sound. Dialogue is clear and clean and is mixed well with the sound effects and Jerry Fielding’s jumpy, jarring score in a single track. While the fidelity won’t win any prizes, it’s still a nicely presented audio track.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: director of photography Richard Kline and producer Nick Redman have a very interesting discussion of the film and Mr. Kline’s work with other very famous directors. As usual, it’s a wonderful new bonus for fans of the movie.Isolated Score Track: Jerry Fielding’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.Theatrical Trailer (2:28, HD)MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)Six-Page Booklet: contains color and black and white stills from the film, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s illuminating essay on the movie.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
The Mechanic had the makings for a great suspense film, but as it stands now, it has only fleeting moments of greatness amid much that’s problematic. But there are no problems with Twilight Time’s wonderful new Blu-ray release. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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