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MECHANIC, THE

IN THE FAMILY
Their fathers produced the original The Mechanic (as well as Rocky) and now their sons are re-producing it, starring today’s Charles Bronson, Jason Statham. Andrew L. Urban checks out the family tree.


If only action star Charles Bronson had had a son and he was an actor, this story could be even more remarkable; Bronson junior might have starred in The Mechanic, the remake of the 1972 action thriller starring Bronson, produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff of Rocky and Raging Bull fame. For this remake, the two veterans are executive producers, while their sons David Winkler and Bill Chartoff are the producers – and they believe Jason Statham is the Charles Bronson of our age.

“Jason Statham was the only actor I could imagine for the role,” Chartoff is quoted as saying in the background notes to the film. “If Jason hadn’t agreed to do it, I doubt the film would have been made. He really is the perfect fit for [the character of] Bishop.”

"a dangerous, shadowy world"

Arthur Bishop is ‘the mechanic’ of the title, one of the most successful assassins around, noted for working ‘clean’; his hits always look like tragic accidents. The story revolves around betrayal: his good friend, mentor and work agent Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) is his one trusted, close human connection. But they live in a dangerous, shadowy world, and when Harry is assassinated, he leaves behind an unruly, undisciplined, volatile son, Steve (Ben Foster). Bishop trains him to be his offsider, but while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves.

The original 1972 film (when David Winkler was just 9 years old) was notable for being the first in the sub genre of hit man movies, with three important elements that have been retained in the remake: one, the hit man is not ruthless, but efficiently imaginative, even creative in his methods. 

Secondly, he has a conscience which motivates him to do something positive for another human being – when he doesn’t have to. And finally, perhaps most important of all, the mentor/protégé relationship between Bishop and McKenna takes on a father/son dimension, adding a deeper layer to the story.

"faithful to the tone and spirit of the original "

It’s little wonder that this new The Mechanic is faithful to the tone and spirit of the original since another key participant in the project is one of the original writers, Lewis John Carlino. 

Even Donald Sutherland has ties with the two families, having worked with the elder Winkler and Chartoff on The Split (1968) and S*P*Y*S (1974) – and with Statham on the Italian Job (2003).

But there is also fresh new creative blood behind The Mechanic: director Simon West hadn’t even seen the original film when he was approached to direct, as he explains in the background briefing notes; “I had never seen the original Mechanic. What attracted me to the project was the premise itself.” 

"fit the role"

Having directed films like Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, West had strong credits when it comes to action movies. So does Statham, as West notes: “He’s immensely skilled. He can and wants to do most of his own stunts. Not to mention, Jason looks like someone who could kill ten men in a room with his bare hands. So he just fit the role in every aspect.”

It has taken 15 years for the Irwin and Chartoff families to develop and produce 2011 version of The Mechanic, the second after their 2006 film Rocky Balboa, the latest in the Rocky series, which was launched by their fathers in the 70s. 

A family that produces films together … stays in the business. 

Published April 3, 2011

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