and sometimes poetry

The Mechanic (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

The Mechanic is a great movie about assassins. One word in the preceding sentence is untrue. I don’t remember much of it, and the more I try to think about it, the more I forget. In that way, The Mechanic is nothing like love. The more you think about it, the more you remember it. And the more you try not to think about it, the more you remember it. And soon the memories swallow you. They swallow thought, they swallow sound, and their images become larger than the apparatus of analysis can bear. They become your spiritual porn. That’s when you act, and run back to them, and slide into home on your knees. They give you your you had me at hello, and you give them your you complete me. Memory ends, and moment explodes. Until then the beautiful dreams will continue to pass through you while you sleep, dispersing to the bleat of your alarm clock, coloring the rest of your morning an aching neon, propelling your path of self-destruction through the night, gluing your soul to the past. The bigger the hole gets, the more you need the images to fill it, the more elaborate they grow—they branch, they fructify—and thus become the more impossible to attain, missiles impossible to aim, creating even larger ripples of letdown when you fail to realize them, creating a larger hole, producing ever more beautiful and ever more false fantasies. But to others—and here empathy works its cruel miracle—those images will seem not only real, but necessary, as if having cascaded from the highest precipices of meaning. So you look into their eyes and observe how happy they are, clutching the life-preserver the cycles of your misery has flung them. And briefly you are heartened by their smiles—those physical facts—or the tears in their eyes. They will go home to their husbands or wives or computers and resume their grueling uncinematic routines, but a little lighter in the chest for believing there is a transcendent possibility somewhere out there—while you drown in withoutness, praying for the courage to get up, for the courage to act in the name of love instead of merely play chemistry set with its rhetoric, knowing this inaction has always been the furnace of your allure, the fuel of imagination. No word in the preceding sentence is untrue.

“I’m putting a price on your head so big that when you look in the mirror, your reflection is going want to shoot you in the face!” Thus the villain in The Mechanic shouts over the phone to Jason Statham. Read it again. Marilyn Monroe wasn’t in this movie because she’s dead, but she said, “If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” Dashing English poet and possible ancestor of Jason Statham, Robert Browning, said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Jesus Christ, Divine Assassin of Sin, opens his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Either Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin, both of whom I consider to be the Ben Foster of the Founding Fathers, once said something whose exact words I can’t remember, but the gist of it was, “Our parents were farmers so that we might become statesmen, and we are statesmen so that our children might become philosophers and artists.” Adolph Hitler, failed artist, amateur philosopher, and the reigning image of evil in the modern mind, Kamph’ed, “A man does not die for something which he himself does not believe in.” So much truth is out there, swirling around The Mechanic. So little was in it. Werner Stipetić, too poetic to be anything but a beautiful failure as a filmmaker, changed his surname to Herzog, German for duke, in order to protect himself from what he called the unyieleding evil of the universe.  “There is a dormant brother inside of you, and I awaken him, I make him speak, and you are not alone anymore,” Herzog said in a recent interview. Some of the violence is creative, and gleefully echoes Con Air, which Simon West also directed, but the rest of The Mechanic is nihilistic, pointless, and sloppy. Life is a wedding dress stuffed into a thimble.


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