Charles Bronson stars as a grizzled, pipe smoking hitman (or “Mechanic”) who takes an upstart wet-behind-the ears assassin (Jan-Michael Vincent) under his wing and shows him the ropes of whacking people. Since the Mob doesn’t like their number one killer bringing in an outsider, they hire Vincent to kill Bronson.
Bronson is excellent as always (and sports a pretty awesome 70’s wardrobe), but this movie runs on way too long and is filled with too many lapses in logic. (Even for a Bronson flick.) Take for example Bronson’s method of killing people. Since he has to make it look like his victims die from natural causes, he has to go through some pretty elaborate rigmarole to kill them. Fair enough, but Bronson goes a little overboard in his planning. Like his first victim. Bronson causes a slow leak in his gas stove, swaps out his tea for sleeping potion, and plants some plastic explosive in his bookcase. When his target comes home, he starts the stove, drinks the sleepy time tea and passes out on the couch, giving Bronson adequate time to shoot the explosive from across the street and blow him up real good. Um, look Chuck I know you’re supposed to make it look like an accident, but you really could’ve saved us fifteen minutes of screen time if you just shot the bastard as soon as he walked into his apartment.
Director Michael Winner (who would go on to direct Bronson in the first three Death Wish movies) films the action sequences adeptly enough but lets the plot slip away from him near the end. Once we learn that Vincent has been hired to kill Bronson, there is almost no tension between the two men (even after Bronson finds out about it). Because Vincent went to the Mechanic School of Killing, he waits and waits and waits before killing Bronson and in turn, stretches the audience’s patience to the breaking point. (Luckily for us, Big Chuck has a back-up plan up his sleeve.) None of this is particularly suspenseful, although Bronson and Vincent do have some chemistry together, which will keep you marginally interested in the (all too predictable) outcome.
Another qualm I had with this movie is there’s a strange, yet tantalizing plot thread that’s just left dangling and is never properly dealt with. Early on in the film we learn that Bronson almost drowned as a child when his stern father threw him overboard. Later, he visits an aquarium and freaks out because of all the underwater imagery. (The scene where he does a frantic double take at Shamu is priceless.) This is seemingly building up to some sort of water phobia that will pay off later in the film. Does it? Not one bit. Actually during the finale, Bronson SCUBA DIVES to get onto his victim’s boat! (Bronson even has a swimming pool in his living room, but uh… never mind.) Why have all that fatherly exposition? Why have the scene of Bronson wigging out in the aquarium? I dunno. Something had to pad this thing out to 99 minutes, I guess.
The Mechanic isn’t one of Bronson’s best, but at least he’s still pretty fun to watch. His performance alone is enough to keep you awake whenever things start to get bogged down. Despite a lot of the glaring plot holes, the film does have the benefit of some awfully dated “mod” hippie scenes. (“Dig it, man!”) Just seeing the puzzled look on Bronson’s face when he comes face to face with all those fun-loving weirdos is worth the price of admission. Chuck’s wife, Jill Ireland also has a brief but memorable role as a classy hooker.
Charley B gets the best line of the movie when he imparts Vincent with this little nugget of Mechanic advice: “You have to be dead sure. Dead sure… or DEAD!”
AKA: Killer of Killers.