Retro Review: The Mechanic (1972)

PCA reminds you that the world’s best movies are not in the new release section at Blockbuster

The Mechanic (1972) When Charles Bronson starred in this 1972 thriller, he had not yet successfully gained cult status in North America as a solo tough guy, and instead co-starred alongside ensamble casts in films such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen.  However, The Mechanic would be just a hint of things to come for film audiences from one of cinema’s toughest tough guys.

Bronson stars as Arthur Bishop, a highly intellectual mafia hit man who has a taste for the finer things in life.  Known as “the Mechanic” for coming in and fixing things that goes wrong, Bishop is one of the coldest killers that the mafia has.  When Bishop rubs out an old employer, he meets his match when be befriends his victim’s teenage son Steve, played by future Airwolf hunk Jan-Michael Vincent.  Fascinated by Steve’s lack of remorse over his father’s murder, and impressed with his cynical and cold hearted nature, Bishop takes the boy under his wing to teach him the art of assassination.  However, just what ulterior motives does Steve have in learning Bishop’s trade, and who really has the upper hand on who?

Charles Bronson teaches Jan-Michael Vincent the art of the hitman in "The Mechanic" (1972)

Although a standard 1970’s action flick, The Mechanic has a number of outstanding moments that makes it memorable.  Charles Bronson is in top form and in one of his coolest roles ever.  As the cunning Bishop, he mutters out the credos and philosophy of a cold killer while training his young mentor.  Vincent, still in the teen idol phase, shows plenty of talent and charisma as the mean spirited Steve, whose hatred for the world seems to motivate his every move.  Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland also has a small, but pointless, cameo as a prostitute that Bishop hires.  Although interesting to see the pair together, Ireland’s talents were wasted in the lack of screen time.  One of the most compelling performances of the film, however, belongs to actress Linda Ridgeway who plays Steve’s suicidal girlfriend who Steve, to Bronson’s fascination, allows to slit her wrists and bleed out without showing a hint of pity or remorse.  Ridgeway’s performance is fantastic, but for some reason the young pretty actress seems to have no other acting credits other then this film.  However, what makes The Mechanic an outstanding film is the memorable twist ending which is on par to the endings of The Planet of the Apes, Oceans 11 and The Sixth Sense as one of the best surprise endings of all time.  The finale is explosive, and one that you won’t forget.

When it was released in 1972 The Mechanic didn’t do well at the box office and was quickly buried.  However, after the success of Death Wish in 1974, capitalizing on Bronson’s new touch guy status, The Mechanic was re-released in drive-in cinemas under the unoriginal new title Killer of Killers.  Although Death Wish is the true classic of Bronson’s 70’s era, The Mechanic proves to be a far more interesting film with Bronson and Vincent playing ruthless killers.  Easily one of the finest films for both of its stars.

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