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“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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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