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"Murder is only killing without a license."
The Mechanic is a 1972 action thriller. Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson), an aging assassin, is hired to kill "Big Harry" McKenna (Keenan Wynn), which he does with his usual resourceful genius. At the funeral he meets Big Harry's son, Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent). Steve becomes interested in the art of being an assassin, so Bishop plays along and then trains the young man to become a professional killer. Steve is taught to use the mechanic's tools until he becomes a master. Arthur Bishop's superiors aren't accepting of Bishop doing this, and in the end they find that they can trust no one. It is a defining example of the seventies action film, and has existentialist themes.
Tropes used by both versions:
- Career Killers
- Contract on the Hitman
- Enthusiasm Versus Stoicism
- Make It Look Like an Accident
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Bishop
- The Obi-Wan / The Stoic: Bishop
- Poor Little Rich Kid: Steve
- Teach Me How to Fight
- Villain Protagonist
- You Killed My Father
Tropes used by the original:
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Some see Bronson's character as an existentialist Heroic Sociopath, but others say it's because life's let him down too many times.
- Badass Longcoats
- Bastard Understudy
- Black and Grey Morality
- Car Chase: And a bike chase.
- Did Not Do the Research: While supposedly in an Italian car, the steering wheel is on the wrong side.
- Did You Actually Believe?
- Dramatic Gun Cock
- Every Car Is a Pinto
- Evil Gloating- By McKenna after he poisons Bishop.
- A Glass in the Hand: Arthur demonstrates the strength in his fingers (from repeated squeezing a lump of putty) by breaking a glass from the inside. "Sometimes you've got to hold onto a mark."
- Guns Akimbo
- The Hero Dies
- Hitman with a Heart: Averted with the sociopathy of the two protagonists highlighted in several ways — for instance Arthur realises Steve has what it takes to be his understudy when the latter watches a former girlfriend who's slit her wrists to get his attention bleed over the course of several hours (she lives, but only because they give her the car keys so she can drive herself to the hospital). A more subtle scene is when Arthur is at the hospital, he walks past a young boy with an artificial leg without even a sympathetic glance.
- Love Interest: Subverted. Bishop appears to have one, but she's revealed after sex to be an expensive prostitute he's paying for what these days would be called a GFE (Girlfriend Experience).
- The Mafia: Implied though not stated outright to be Arthur's employers.
- Moral Event Horizon: After Steve's female friend has called him after cutting her wrists and is bleeding to death, Steve and Arthur stand by and watch, giving the girl estimates of the symptoms and time until death, and throwing her the keys to a vehicle and telling her where she can drive to get help.
- This scene is also an excellent showcasing of the film's existentialist themes. As Steve says to the girl; "If you don't care about your life, why should I?"
- Narm: The ridiculous dramatic camera pans close up all the way into Bronson's nose are a little much.
- Perfect Poison
- Porn Stache: Charles Bronson's got one.
- The Seventies: Very evident.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: On the cynical side.
- Thanatos Gambit- "If you're reading this now, you're dead. Bang." Steve shares a celebratory bottle of wine with Bishop, having coated the Bishop's glass with brucine. Mocking Bishop while waiting for him to die, he is unaware that Bishop knew this would happen. Thinking that he can now take over Bishop's life and career, he finds a note on the steering wheel from Bishop. "If you are reading this, you're dead. Bang." The car door sets off a timer connected to a bomb that explodes.
- Although, you have to wonder... I checked up on brucine, it's an alkaloid so it should taste bitter. Plus, the lethal dose is like 1 gram of pure stuff, so if enough of it gets added to wine so that the victim gets a gram in one mouthful I'm thinking that's going to really change the taste. Steve said he coated the glass with a solution, which can't have been enough. Plus, Bishop kind of got his heart attack way too quickly; you'd think for an ingested poison there'd be some delay before the effects kick in. Maybe it was more a Batman Gambit - Bishop was planning to disappear anyway, so he pretended he got poisoned then blew up Steve so the organization would think he was the one in the car.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Arthur knows Steve is planning to kill him, and is surprised when Steve kills a mook who's got the drop on him.
- You Killed My Father: Subverted.
Bishop: "Was it because of your father?"
Steve: "You killed him? I thought he just died."
Tropes used by the remake:
- Arc Words: "Victory Through Preparation"
- Bald of Awesome: Bishop (not surprisingly, he's played by Jason Statham)
- California Doubling: Averted and played straight. The film was shot on location in New Orleans but New Orleans doubled for Chicago, Houston and Colombia as well.
- Car Fu: Bishop kills another hitman by throwing him through a bus window into the path of an oncoming car. The vehicle vs. vehicle version is used in the Dean ambush.
- Chekhov's Gun: Harry's gun.
- Fast Roping: Improvised with ropes from a window-cleaning rig.
- Fingore: Bishop pretends to force a girl's hand into the waste shredder to encourage her father to talk. It's actually raw steak.
- Genius Bruiser: Burke.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Not really a case of good and bad, but Bishop has his beautiful high-class escort writhing on top of him, while McKenna has rough sex in an alley.
- Ho Yay: Between McKenna and Burke. And probably unintentionally, but between Bishop and McKenna, a lot. He seems to take it very personally when he realizes that Bishop killed his father, getting teary-eyed at the betrayal. And there's just generally a lot of macho posing.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Used as a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Bishop is talking on his mobile to Steve who is waiting at his house.
Bishop: "I'm guessing you're not alone. (wide shot shows three mooks pointing guns at Steve) There's a gun down the left side cushion. It's loaded and the safety's off."
Steve: "I'm not a lefty."
Bishop: "Then you're going to die."
(Steve hands his mobile back to the mook; with the other hand he shoots the man behind him, then the others)
- Improvised Weapon: Used in the hitman vs. hitman scenes.
- Kill It with Fire: Double Subversion. Towards the end of the film, it appears that Bishop has been killed by McKenna in a massive explosion. It turns out that not only did he survive the explosion, but he rigged McKenna's car with a bomb.
- Manly Gay: The Mighty Glacier rival mechanic.
- Oh Crap: McKenna at end, although he just laughs, so this is a bit of an inversion.
- Played straight with Dean when he thinks The Calls Are Coming From Inside the House.
- Out with a Bang: McKenna decides to kill Burke this way. It doesn't go well.
- Rated "M" for Manly: The female characters are incidental in this story.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The chihuahua that Bishop and McKenna adopt for a mission (later given to Bishop's prostitute friend and named Arthur).
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: The ending.
- So Much for Stealth
- Spray and Pray: Averted -- Bishop and McKenna fire only the rounds they need. Played straight when they kill Dean however, as both men empty their magazines into him.
- Training Montage
- Vigilante Man: After Bishop fakes Harry McKenna's death at the hands of carjackers, Steve goes out to kill a random carjacker as revenge.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?
Steve: "Why don't you just shoot him and fuck all this?"
Bishop: "Good judgement comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."
- You Killed My Father: Unlike in the original movie, McKenna is very motivated to kill whoever killed his father, despite their troubled relationship when he was alive.