“Mechanic: Resurrection” is a dumb movie. A bag of hammers might provoke more intellectual discussion than the latest from German director Dennis Gansel (“The Wave”). But it’s not oblivious. There’s a faint twinkle in its eye. There’s not a lot happening upstairs, but Gansel and screenwriters Philip Shelby and Tony Mosher are at least willing to keep things loose. The plot structure can best be described as flexible. The action is often ludicrous. It has an almost gleeful disregard to believability when jumping between global set pieces and exotic locales. But that’s what makes its rather dull presentation fairly disheartening. It’s sillier and more free-wheeling than you’d initially expect, but it never quite finds a sense of drive to give it purpose.
It’s considered a sequel to 2011’s largely-forgotten “The Mechanic,” but — much like the pre-Daniel Craig era Bond films — the only thing that really carries over is our titular problem fixer, Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham). Living quietly in Rio de Janeiro, Bishop is forced back into action when his isolation is compromised and more people want him dead. Never one to go out easily, he cleans up his competition and heads straight towards a secluded Thailand beach, where he soon falls for Gina (Jessica Alba). She’s a school teacher in Cambodia; he’s a lethal assassin known for making elaborate kills look like public accidents. It’s obviously a match made in heaven, and it doesn’t take long (like, maybe two scenes) before Arthur and Gina are deeply, madly in love.
But there’s one person who wants to keep the recent happy couple apart: Crain (Sam Hazeldine), a bland sadist who kidnaps Gina and forces Bishop to perform three elaborate kills if he ever wants to see his girlfriend alive. But he’s also on the clock, and constantly under surveillance. He’ll have to put his best foot forward in a profession he almost entirely left behind some years back, but Bishop isn’t one to be pushed around easily. He’ll soon kick his fair share of ass left-and-right, and he’ll take us to some more fabulous locations and pull off elaborate stunts in the process. It’s what Bishop does best, but it’s also Statham at his most middling.
Between his villainous turn in “Furious 7” and his secondary role in “The Expendables” trilogy of late, as well as his rare all-out comedy turn in “Spy” last year, it feels like Statham hasn’t had his own theatrical film in a while, even though that’s only somewhat true. Actioners like “Wild Card,” “Redemption,” “Blitz,” “Homefront,” “Safe,” and “Parker,” which mostly fluctuated between B-to-D level, came and went since Statham’s last “Mechanic” film, and none held the staying power of his vastly underappreciated “Crank” films, or even his enjoyably mediocre “The Transporter” trilogy. But when channeled appropriately, there’s an odd charm to Statham’s particular browbeat demeanour. His winking self-awareness and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor are more on-point than many recognize, and his turn in “Mechanic: Resurrection” sometimes reminds you of what he brought in his realism-be-damned glory years.
But Statham is rather stagnant and bland in his returning role. He’s only occasionally allowed to provide the suave charisma found in his better performances, and it’s not his fault necessarily. He goes through-the-motions commendably enough, but there’s nothing juicy to chew on here. Even by action movie standards, “Mechanic: Resurrection” feels exceptionally padded out. Its dullness is only exceeded by its shoddy pacing, with its 99-minute running time feeling a lot longer. The plot mechanics (no pun intended) are often deathly familiar, as if they came from a lost ‘80s script (which isn’t necessarily beneath Statham, as seen in the aforementioned Sylvester Stallone-penned “Homefront”). Even when its rather straight-faced goofiness produces some decent chuckles, it’s too inconsistent and mild in its convictions to earn some steady gaffs, either intentionally or otherwise.
Even the most ridiculous aspects, including one involving “shark repellent lotion,” are oddly toned-down, all saved for Tommy Lee Jones’s magnificently bizarre third act turn as Max Adams, a rich, reclusive, pajama-wearing looney who lets his quirky sense of humor, multiple earrings and distinctly-prominent soul patch define his flimsy personality. It’s a gloriously unusual performance for the normally grouchy Oscar winner, one that proves that Jones doesn’t have to be as cantankerous as he looks if given the chance to be corny-as-hell. In fact, the most fatal sin in “Mechanic: Resurrection” might be refusing to give Jones the chance to steal the whole show. His character deserves another movie way more than Bishop does.
“Mechanic: Resurrection” is certainly quite a few things. It’s mindless. It’s senseless. It’s unsophisticated. It’s also rather gratuitous, particularly with one nearly minute-long scene of Alba swimming underwater, included for seemingly no discernible reason other than gazing at her scantily-clad bikini body. Above all else, though, it’s insipid. Even when the predecessor was unmemorable, it knew how to keep things engaging enough to earn your attention throughout. This sequel, however, is ultimately a rather excessive and fairly pointless exercise, producing a direct-to-DVD-level B-movie action flick that often refuses to add anything exciting beyond some nice locations to this would-be franchise. It’s the kind of film Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp label typically makes fast and cheap, and I’m genuinely surprised the company wasn’t involved this time around. There’s no point getting a mechanic to resurrect this series; it’s seemingly broken beyond repair. [C]