DID YOU READ

“The Mechanic,” Reviewed

“The Mechanic,” Reviewed (photo)

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There’s a lot to like about Jason Statham, but here’s what I like best: he’s bald.

We do not have enough bald action stars. Being an action star involves too much vanity, and too much vanity leads men to wear too much fake hair. Even Sean Connery, bald as a baby’s bottom, wore a piece to play James Bond (you’d know in his later career when Connery was playing a “serious” role when the toupee came off). There are a lot of male movie stars out there — I don’t need to name names, you know who they are — whose hairlines somehow move forward with age instead of backward. It’s as if these guys are so convinced of their superiority that they can’t allow themselves get older like the rest of us mere mortals.

Statham is not that sort of star. He’s been balding since he started in movies in the late 1990s, and now he’s pretty much barren up there. The fact that he’s comfortable enough with himself to be bald onscreen speaks to the sort of persona he’s developed: tough, dependable, immune to extravagance or self-indulgence. Like the men he typically plays, Statham knows exactly who he is and is comfortable with what he does. And what he does is make small but satisfying thrillers like “The Mechanic,” a lean, no-frills midrange action picture of the kind that Hollywood and its outliers used to make by the gross in the 80s but have recently fallen casualty to modern moviemaking’s economies of scale, which demand B-movies with A-budgets.

In “The Mechanic,” Statham plays Arthur Bishop, an expert assassin for a nebulous company called, nebulously, “The Company.” Odd how the organizations in these sorts of black ops movies are always unnamed — don’t the assassins get confused which unnamed company they’re working for? Maybe that’s the point. You can’t ever rat anyone out because you don’t know who to rat on. Must be a nightmare come tax time.

Anyway, most movies about lone assassins tend to play up their hero’s solitude and anguish. They examine what it must be like to kill people for a living, and consider the toll it takes on a man’s psyche. Not “The Mechanic.” Bishop seems quite content living in his beautiful home in the bayous near New Orleans. Even when his boss (Tony Goldwyn) gives him an assignment he doesn’t want to take for reasons I won’t spoil, he goes through with it anyway. At that man’s funeral, he meets his victim’s son Steve (Ben Foster). Angry over his father’s death and unaware that Bishop is responsible, Steve convinces “the mechanic” (he “fixes things,” you see) to teach him to be an assassin. Bishop agrees but warns his pupil never to let emotion or vengeance get in the way of the job which, in a movie, is a surefire guarantee that before long emotion and vengeance will get in the way of the job.

Though Statham delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from him, Foster really surprised me in this movie. He approaches his part as if he’s in a moody indie character study of grief and loss and not a Jason Statham vehicle about dudes who use garbage trucks as deadly weapons. A lot of actors in his situation (maybe some of the ones who have the really bad hair) would have gone over-the-top in depicting Steve’s depression. Foster bottles it all up, and is convincingly scary as a kid boiling with anger with no way to release it.

Nothing about the plot of “The Mechanic” is surprising. We predict a double-cross almost from the beginning, and there is one. We know Steve will ultimately discover the truth about Bishop, and he does. But the film, directed by “Con Air”‘s Simon West, is made with intensity and skill. The fight scenes are dramatic and Bishop and Steve’s assassination schemes are entertainingly clever. I wish the story didn’t require the usually brilliant Bishop to act like a moron in one particular moment, but whatever.

Of course, Statham is rock solid as always, delivering all the requisite ass kickings and over-the-shoulder glowers (nobody glowers over their shoulder quite like Jason Statham). I feel more comfortable forking over my twelve dollars for a movie by Statham than I do for a movie by just about anyone else. He never disappoints me. Time and again, he gives me my money’s worth. Two “Crank” films, three “Transporter”s, “The Bank Job,” “Death Race,” “Cellular” and on down the list. He’s really only made one truly unwatchable movie, Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver.” Interestingly, that’s the one movie he’s made where he didn’t play a bald guy. Coincidence?

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.