When I was a little kid, my mother allowed my sister and I to have televisions in our rooms. I ad an old black-and-white set that always had some static, even after we got cable. It would have been on that set that I first saw the film that would prompt my near-obsession with hit man films and contract killers in general – The Mechanic aka Killer of Killers. Now, there’s no way I could have ever seen the trailer for the film (I was, after all, two years old when it was in theaters), but if I had I know it would have had me chomping at the bit-
Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent will forever define the role of cinematic hit man in my mind. In fact, this movie is probably the very reason that the Hollywood Hit Men series even exists here on Philaahzophy. Bronson is smart, calm, and professional throughout every moment of this film. His trademark “cool” is in high gear as he methodically plans and executes his assignments. Meanwhile, Jan-Michael Vincent seems to be be taking lessons in cool from Bronson just as his character is taking lessons on murder for hire.
Fans of modern action films are probably going to be bored with The Mechanic as it is, without a doubt, a product of its times. While there are a few explosions and a car chase scene, they’re spaced throughout the film and you’ll see no two-fisted gunslingers diving across warehouses a la John Woo. The Mechanic replaces the modern hard-hitting soundtrack and quick-cut editing with 70s style long shots, dramatic framing, thoughtful near-silence, and intense characterization. Hell, the first piece of dialog in the film isn’t uttered for more than 15 minutes!
Screenwriter Lewis John Carlino has crafted a script that allows us to feel both the pain and the joy of being a hit man. Bronson’s character may be teaching Vincent’s character the ropes of being a professional killer, but at the same time we’re learning ourselves. A professional doesn’t just pick up a gun, find the mark, and put a bullet in their head. No. First he learns everything he can about them – their schedule, their habits, medical information, friends and family – everything. He then uses this information to formulate a plan to take out the target so masterfully that it’s a wonder he ever gets paid because all of the deaths seem accidental or completely natural. Meanwhile, director Michael Winner clearly understands that while The Mechanic is about a mafia hitman (Bronson works for “The Organization”, but it’s clearly still the mob) this is a drama, not an action film or even a thriller. Both the cinematography and the acting highlight this difference in nearly every footage of film.
While The Mechanic has absolutely zero semblance to any video game ever made it will long reign supreme among hit man movies. This film is the total package and has an ending that you may not readily believe, but you’ll certainly accept, and most likely honor as one of the best in all of movie history.
Best Line: “My Friends are so happy they’re killing themselves.”
More from Charles Bronson –
The Complete Hollywood Hit Men Project Series-
- Hollywood Hit Men – Cinematic Assassins
- Hitman’s Run – 1999 – Eric Roberts
- 2 Days In The Valley – 1996 – Danny Aiello and James Spader
- The Mechanic aka Killer Of Killers – 1972 – Charles Bronson
- El Mariachi – 1992 – Carlos Gallardo