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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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…