So many allusions to the blockbuster James Bond franchise occur in German director Dennis Gansel’s explosive, slam-bang, actioneer “Mechanic: Resurrection” (*** OUT OF ****), that you wonder if brawny Jason Statham wasn’t auditioning for the coveted role of Agent 007. Five years ago, Statham inherited the role of hired assassin Arthur Bishop from the late Charles Bronson in “The Mechanic” (1972), and Statham displayed more than enough gritty aplomb and compelling charisma to make you believe he could play Ian Fleming’s British spy. Gansel’s sequel to Simon West’s “The Mechanic” (2011) boasts all the elements typically seen in a tense Bond thriller: exotic international locales, adrenaline-laced action sequences set variously on land, sea, ship, and double-digit body count. Statham eludes a murderous, gun-toting dame in Rio de Janeiro by catching a ride on the roof of a cable car to scenic Sugarloaf Mountain. This scene evoked memories of “Moonraker” (1979) where Roger Moore’s James Bond swapped blows with Richard Kiel’s hulking Jaws atop a cable car. Later, Statham collaborates with a global arms merchant played by Tommy Lee Jones who owns at least two submarines armed with lethal weapons like the villain in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Finally, in a scene after he hooks up with the bodacious Jessica Alba, a hard-bodied Jason Statham emerges from the surf looking like Daniel Craig in his first 007 outing “Casino Royale.” Mind you, “Mechanic: Resurrection” is no more a James Bond epic than it is a Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” extravaganza. Nevertheless, Statham performs stunts like either Bond or Ethan Hunt might and dispatches adversaries right, left, and center without pause. Compared to Simon West’s Louisiana-lensed “The Mechanic,” Gansel’s belated sequel surpasses the original in several respects, mostly in the gun-play category. “Mechanic Resurrection” does something crucial that good sequels should; it provides audiences with more information about the characters.
Anybody who remembers Jason Statham’s first outing as Arthur Bishop in “The Mechanic” knows that Steve McKenna (Ben Foster of “Contraband”) tried to blow him to kingdom come at a gas station. Of course, McKenna failed, but he didn’t know what had happened until he got himself blown to bits when he tried to cruise off in one of Bishop’s prize cars. McKenna sought to kill Bishop because he discovered that Bishop had killed his father Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland of “The Hunger Games”) as part of a contract commissioned by the criminal syndicate that kept Bishop on its payroll. You don’t know have to know any of this when you watch “Mechanic: Resurrection,” but a little knowledge never hurt anybody. At the end of “The Mechanic,” somebody found CCTV footage of Bishop rolling out of the truck before McKenna ignited that incendiary blast. For the record, Bishop never believed Harry had been guilty of what he was accused of doing by his high-level associate, Dean (Tony Goldwyn of “Ghost”), who double-crossed not only Harry but also Bishop.
Since this unfortunate mishap, our eponymous assassin has been on the lam. When “Mechanic: Resurrection” opens, Bishop has been hiding out in plain sight in Rio De Janeiro on his yacht for five months under an assumed name: Otto Sanchez. No sooner has Bishop gone to grab a brew at his favorite hang-out than a gal with a gun (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) and five henchmen confront him. She informs him her boss wants him to ice three rivals, but the killings must appear accidental. Bishop relies on his ingenious ability to improvise, and he escapes from them. Mind you, Bishop literally obliterates this restaurant during a fight with the thugs before clambering atop a Sugarloaf Mountain bound cable car. The thugs storm the cable car and blow holes in the roof, prompting our hero to dive off it and luckily land atop another girl out flying her hang glider for kicks. This opening scene is worthy of either a James Bond or an Ethan Hunt. Once he has eluded these pugnacious ruffians, Bishop travels to a remote collection of islands off the coast of Thailand. He goes back to see an old friend, Mei (Michelle Yeoh of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), and learns that a former friend requires his unique services.
Along the way, Mei encounters a bruised and battered damsel-in-distress, Gina (Jessica Alba of “The Fantastic Four”), who has been roughed up by her cruel boyfriend. Mei persuades Bishop to intervene on Gina’s behalf, but Bishop inadvertently kills the boyfriend, Frank (Anteo Quintavalle of “Hard Target 2”), after he boards the boat where the couple are quarreling. Initially, Bishop doesn’t trust Gina. She confesses that she has been forced to seduce him because a ruthless criminal without a shred of morality, Riah Crain (Sam Hazeldine of “The Brothers Grimsby”), has terrorized the co-workers at a school that she runs in Cambodia for children victimized by the sex trade. Bishop shares with Gina that he was an orphan himself who was sold into slavery to an East End London mobster and trained to be a kid soldier. Bishop, it seems, escaped from the mobster, but his childhood pal Riah wasn’t fortunate enough. Riah was punished for his part in Bishop’s breakout, and Rian yearns for payback. He abducts Gina and bargains to release her if Bishop will kill three unsavory gents.
Clearly, “Survivor” scenarist Philip Shelby and freshman co-scripter Tony Mosher have written a thoroughly convoluted thriller. The twists and turns make their screenplay look like a pretzel. The dialogue doesn’t contain a quotable line, and most of the Rio de Janeiro CGI work looks mediocre. Nevertheless, “We Are the Night” director Dennis Gansel doesn’t let this nonsense loiter during its nimble, white-knuckled 99 minutes. Gansel stages some daredevil fistfights and firefights that compensate for its contrived screenplay. The skyscraper swimming pool scene 76 floors up is breathtaking. Sadly, Michelle Yeoh and Tommy Lee Jones languish in supporting roles with little to distinguish themselves, while Statham tangles with inexhaustible adversaries. If you enjoy watching Jason Statham kick ass, “Mechanic: Resurrection” is an ideal diversion.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts