Film Review: The Mechanic (dir. by Simon West)


A few years ago, I declared that January should just be renamed Statham because seriously, Jason Statham was in like almost every single freaking movie released that month.  Seriously, it was like every time I turned on the TV, there was yet a new commercial featuring Jason Statham in some movie that I had absolutely no desire to see.  “Oh look,” I’d say, “that’s Jason Statham swinging a sword.  Oh, now he’s driving a car really fast.  Oh, wow, now Jason Statham’s looking off to the side and squinting…”

Well, this January, Jason Statham is only starring in one film and it might be the best of his career.  At the very least, it’s the first time I’ve been able to kind of see the guy’s appeal as a film star.  That film is The Mechanic and it opened this week.

In the Mechanic, Jason Statham plays a contract killer.  He’s known as a mechanic because he “fixes” problems.  After Statham’s mentor (Donald Sutherland) is killed, Statham takes the man’s son (Ben Foster) under his wing and starts to teach Foster the tools of the trade.  However, unlike the cool and detached Statham, Foster is a jittery and angry psychopath.  However, despite their differing approaches, they are forced to work together when the same man (Tony Goldwyn) who ordered Sutherland’s murder decides to come after them.

As I stated before, I’ve never quite gotten the appeal of Jason Statham as an actor.  In fact, as Jeff and I waited for the film to start, I said, “I’ve never really gotten Jason Statham.”  As soon as I said that, this woman sitting in front of us turned around in her seat and I swear to God, she rolls her eyes at me in this way that said, “Bitch, please.  Like Jason Statham would ever give your raggedy ass a second look.” 

I proceeded to narrow my eyes in a way that said, “You best be watching what you say, you nasty ass ho.”

She cocked her head in a way that said, “Oh, no you didn’t!”

I flared my nostrils in a way that said, “Oh yes, I did, you hootchie ass skank…”

She leaned forward as if to say, “Gurl, you need to get Jesus in your life…” 

I smirked as if to say, “Jesus?  What does Jesus have to do with this?”

Before she could answer, the movie started.

Anyway, what was my point?  Oh yes, Jason Statham.  In the past, I’ve never gotten his appeal but in this film, I did.  For the first time, I saw him as something other than just an expressionless English guy.  Statham is athletic but, unlike a lot of other action movie stars, he’s not so ludicrously muscle-bound that you can’t believe him as some guy you might run into out on the street.  Previously, I just thought that Statham was a bad actor but, with the Mechanic, I realized that, whereas other actors act with their eyes and their voice, Statham acts with his body.  You look at Statham with his constant scowl and his cold eyes and you believe that he could kill someone in real life as well as in the movies.  Statham is perfectly cast as a professional killer and The Mechanic wisely doesn’t try to suggest that the character is anything more than just a very disciplined sociopath.  Much like the best pulp heroes, Statham’s mechanic is a hero by default.  He’s a bad guy but everyone else in the movie is worse.

Also, there’s a scene about ten minutes into the film where Statham, fresh from killing a drug lord, changes clothes in a linen closet and as soon as he removed his shirt, I said, “Oh, I see the appeal now.”

Playing opposite of Statham, Ben Foster gives another one of his intense performances.  Throughout the film, Foster is perpetually on the verge of exploding and his typically high energy performance provides a nice contrast to Statham’s typical nonperformance.  He’s the Eli Wallach to Statham’s Clint Eastwood.  However, Foster doesn’t just rely on theatric for his character.  Instead, he gives a complex, multi-faceted performance as a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, could have just been your average psychopath.  He even manages to win some sympathy for a character who, on paper, wouldn’t seem to deserve it.  Even more importantly, he brings out the best in Statham in a way that previous co-stars like Sylvester Stallone couldn’t. 

Director West keeps the action moving quickly without ever letting the movie degenerate into just a collection of over-the-top set pieces.  When the film does break out into action, West handles it like a pro and, as spectacular as the action may get, he still manages to keep things in the realm of the believable.  However, West also invests the film with a dark, almost grim atmosphere that fills every scene with a feeling of impending doom and growing paranoia.

The Mechanic is a fast-paced, unapologetic thriller that, in its way, ultimately becomes a masterpiece of the pulp imagination.   It’s very easy to imagine this as an Antonio Margheriti film from the early 80s, starring David Warbeck and Giovanni Lombardo Radice in the Statham and Foster roles.  Both director West and the cast deserve to be applauded for making a grindhouse film for the 21st Century.

Review: Crank (dir. by Neveldine/Taylor)


Through the Shattered Lens has been quite eclectic when it comes to reviewing films, music and all forms of entertainment. While we’re not averse to the more high-brow and artistic fare what will come across to most visitors of the site is how love for grindhouse and exploitation films are quite strong in this place. Grindhouse and exploitation of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s usually fill the bill but once in a while a certain film of aq more recent time frame will make the cut. One such film is the over-the-top, ultraviolent and extremely funny film Crank from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, or as they like to call themselves, Neveldine/Taylor.

One thing I must point out is how this movie has confirmed Jason Statham in my eyes as the current action-star of the last couple years. A favorite of Brit action-auteur director Guy Ritchie, Statham has gradually built himself a decent list of action-movies that take good advantage of Statham’s old-school sense of machismo and smirking confidence reminiscent of the such past macho actors like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen just to name a few. Statham is thick in body, but none too muscular and his wry, British sardonic personality mixes well with his many different action-movie personas. In Crank he pretty much steals and holds the ludicrous and unique different plot from spiralling out into camp and MST3K territory. Even though Statham would never be considered an acting giant, his performance as the hitman Chev Chelios racing against time to avenge his inevitable death was very well done. Crank starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Like the actions and behavior of its main character, this film seems to be racing towards the end and not caring to slow down and give the audience a chance to take a breather. He literally willed this film to be nothing but crazily entertaining.

Many have called the idea for Crank as another derivative of the mid-90’s action film Speed. I’d be the first to say that they’re really not off the mark by much. Instead of a bus wired to explode if it dips below a predetermined speed, Crank puts the same premise and uses a human body instead. The human in question is one Chev Chelios whose botching of a contract hit lands him in a bit of hot water with the underworld bosses who hired him to do the job. Ambushed and knocked unconscious, Chelios soon wakes up to realize that something is definitely wrong with him. A bit of villain grandstanding from the employer he disappointed, Chelios quickly finds out that he has been injected with an exotic cocktail of chemicals called the Beijing Cocktail (definitely sounds like something made-up for a grindhouse flick) which would kill him by inhibiting his body’s ability to produce adrenaline. He learns from a colleague that he will need to keep his adrenaline pumping constantly to remain among the living and must do so by any means necessary. Whether he accomplishes this through extreme physical activities, drugs, and energy drinks Chelios must do them all in order to buy himself enough time to tie up lose ends in his life and to find the employers who have killed him. That is pretty much the story of Crank in a nutshell.

Crank doesn’t take much of the film’s early minutes to explain some backstory on Chelios other than him being a professional hitman. Instead writer-directors Neveldine/Taylor use the entire running time of the movie to gradually give glimpses into what kind of a person Chev Chelios is. With their use of handheld digital cameras and kinetic-style editing and camera shots, Neveldine/Taylor takes the premise of Crank and lets the audience ride along not just as passive viewers but almost like active participants. The “in the now” look of the film with some shots angled so that they’re almost in first-person or over the shoulder views doesn’t look as gimmicky as it sounds. One film released the same year that compares to Crank in terms of unique filmmaking for an action film it would be Running Scared that was released earlier this year. Both take the action flick conventions and dare to rise above it either through a dark fairytale style that was Running Scared or the manic, darkly amoral humor that gives Crank such an exhilirating sense of pacing.

The one thing that people will remember most about this movie is the many action sequences that happen throughout the film. With their decision to use handheld digital cameras, action sequences in Crank take on an almost hyperkinetic look to them. Again this film shares some similarities with Running Scared with how its action sequences were shot with such inventive use of angles and framing not to mention in-your-face violence. Crank has less of the surreal quality of Running Scared and more of a live newscast. In fact, at times I felt as if I was watching a news crew vainly chasing after Statham’s character as he paints the Los Angeles with non-stop adrenaline-pumping violence and activities. Whether its him getting into an outnumbered free-for-all brawl with a certain inner-city gang or having a very impromptu, unexpected and thoroughly indecent display of public affection with dozens in witness, the film’s amoral and sense of active nihilism makes this film a most politically-incorrect one. There’s a scene involving a taxi driver that was wrong on so many levels yet it invoked some of the biggest laughs and reactions from myself and the audience around me when I first saw it in the theaters.

The violence comes hard and fast and unlike Statham’s past couple of Transporter flicks, there’s nary a martial art choreographed fight scene to be seen. No, Chelios is an action film character who attacks and fights with sudden directness and brutality with as little movements required as possible. Chelios doesn’t need kung fu or karate moves to take out an opponent when a a well-placed kick, punch, elbow, etc…is all that’s needed to put a man down. Crank’s action sequences also had no CGI used (something I learned prior to seeing the film) with Statham doing most of his stunts. This wouldn’t be too much of a big deal until one factors in the fact that one of the action pieces takes place in a helicopter flying a thousand or so feet above the street of LA. Statham must have quite a steely pair if there’s truth behind him doing that helicopter fight with no greenscreen CG trickery or wire-fu assistance used.

Outside of Statham the rest of the cast took to their roles with a relish and had fun with them. And as with every action-flicks the hero will need a foil to motivate him. Statham’s Chelios has his opposite number in Verona played with thuggish calculation by Jose Pablo Castillo. Then there’s Doc Dwight Yoakam as Doc Miles. Chelios’ acquaintance whose knowledge of all things chemical borders on the absurd but in Crank makes it work. But the other performer who stood out outside of Jason Statham has to be Amy Smart as Chelios’ ditzy but well-meaning girlfriend, Eve. She plays this character to the hilt and seem to be having a ball while doing so. Her outdoor scene of PDA with Statham and a follow-up scene during a car chase shows me that Ms. Smart was pretty game about going all the way with how to portray her character.

I won’t mention too many more details on what actually happens in the film since I think its best to see it for oneself. Words can’t really describe the sheer insanity and fun mayhem this movie puts up on the big-screen. The story may not be too original and it’s lead may not be the best actor out there, but what Statham lacks in acting proficiency he more than makes up for sheer charisma and old-school machismo that’s way too rare in action-flick actors nowadays. Crank is more than your run-of-the-mill action movie. The creativity shown by writer-directors Neveldine/Taylor gives Crank a unique look and their attempts to try new techniques succeeds more than it fails. But in the end this film lives and dies on the shoulders of Jason Statham who I must say is the action-hero of this new generation of actors.

So, better grab hold tight of something or someone, because this film is one hell of a ride and you’re not getting off until the very end whether you like it or not.

6 Trailers Designed To Induce Hysteria


This latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers was meant to have a theme.  I was only going to include trailers of films that have been reviewed on the Hysteria Lives! website.  Unfortunately, I ran in to some trouble with the New Year’s Evil trailer and I ended up going with a different trailer of a movie that hasn’t been reviewed on the site.  So, yes, the theme kinda falls apart at the end.  But anyway, let’s get things started…

1) The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1970)

Sergio Martino doesn’t get as much attention as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava but he made some giallo classics and this is one of them.  Yes, the trailer’s in Italian but stick with it anyway.  Also, the person who uploaded this to Youtube, included another trailer — this one for Lucio Fulci’s Lizard In A Woman’s Skin — after the end of the Mrs. Wardh trailer.

2) Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

You can tell that this trailer from 1981 isn’t messing around because the birthday cake gets it!  I saw this movie on TV a few years ago.  The brain surgery scenes really freaked me out.  Another thing that freaked me out was a scene where all the high school snobs decided to spend their night at a special showing of High Noon.  Why couldn’t I have gone to high school with a bunch of film snobs?  Seriously, life sucks.

3) Don’t Open The Door (made in 1975, released in 1979)

All together now: “Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t.  Don’t…”  With all due respect to the very hot Eli Roth, that was my favorite of the fake trailers from Grindhouse.  Anyway, Don’t is not a real film but Don’t Open The Door is.  Exploitation film of the 70s and the 80s were always trying to tell us how to live our lives.  Don’t stand by the window, don’t look in the basement, don’t go in the house, don’t go into the woods…alone, and now, apparently we can’t even open the freaking door.  This actually reminds me of this time that we were visiting my grandma and I was up in the attic exploring and I heard my sisters downstairs calling out my name because they couldn’t find me so I tried to open the attic door and I accidentally yanked off the door knob.  Agck!  That was scary.  But I survived and here’s the trailer…

4) Body Count (1987)

I haven’t seen this one so all of my information on it comes from what I’ve read online.  Apparently, this was Italian director Ruggero Deodato’s attempt to make an American-style slasher film so, of course, it takes place at a summer camp.  David Hess is in this one and apparently, he’s not playing the killer for once.  Former Russ Meyer star Charles Napier is in this one too.  As for why I love this trailer, just listen to narrator at the end of the trailer when he starts tossing out various taglines.  It’s as if the film’s producers were arguing about which tagline to use and finally someone said, “Fuck it, just toss them all in there!  Now, shut up and behave!  It’s time for dinner!”

5) Scalps (1983)

Horror will surround you … and we’re not just talking about the acting.  I love it when trailers dare you to actually sit through the entire movie.  (And, I should add, that I own Scalps on DVD and, bad acting aside, it’s actually a surprisingly effective little horror movie.)

6) Bloody New Year (1987)

I wanted to include the trailer for a film called New Year’s Evil here but the only one I could find had this huge advertising logo across the bottom of it.  But while I searched, I came across the trailer for another New Year’s horror film, Bloody New Year.  And you know what?  I’ve seen New Year’s Evil and it sucks and it had a really nasty sort of sadism to it that makes you feel dirty after you watch it.  So, fuck New Year’s Evil.  Now, let’s all have a Bloody New Year!

Finally, since that Lizard in a Woman’s Skin extra actually means that there were 7 trailers in this edition as opposed to 6, I’m going to add one more bonus trailer so that we can end things on an even number.  There’s no way I couldn’t take the opportunity to include Edgar Wright’s brilliant fake trailer, Don’t.

What Lisa Watched Last Night: Doing Time On Maple Drive (dir. by Ken Olin)


Early Friday morning, I found myself watching an old school made-for-TV movie, Doing Time On Maple Drive, on the Lifetime Movie Network.  If you’ve heard of this film, it’s probably because it features a kinda young Jim Carrey in a supporting role.

Why Was I Watching It?

Because when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re getting hit by the old insomnia curse, what’s a girl to do put turn on the TV and change the channel to the Lifetime Movie Network?

What’s It About?

The Carters appear to be the perfect American family.  They’ve got a beautiful house in the suburbs (on Maple Drive, no less), the children are all handsome and intelligent, the dad is a succesful businessman, the mom a perfect homemaker, and blah blah blah.  You know how this is going to turn out already, don’t you?  Dad is actually an overly competitive jerk, mom is in denial, the daughter is a neurotic mess, the youngest son is a closeted homosexual, and the oldest child is Jim Carrey.  He’s also an alcoholic and he claims that his name is actually Tim but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still Jim Carrey.

What Worked?

Tolstoy once said that all happy families are the same but that each unhappy family is unique.  The family in this film is unique because — well, oh my God, how dysfunctional can you be?  Not only do you have the judgmental parents and the alcoholic son but you’ve got the frigid daughter and the self-loathing gay son.  Just using one of these stock characters would have made the film’s storyline seem familiar and predictable.  However, tossing all of them into the mix and you’ve got an old school camp classic, complete with dramatic monologues, scary silences, and all the rest.  Though this was originally made and shown by Fox, Doing Time On Maple Drive really does take the beloved Lifetime Family Drama formula to its most logical extreme.

The film is also pretty well-acted and features some familiar faces for those of us who love horror and exploitation films.  For instance, the gay son is played by William McNamara who, if you’re an Argento fan, you may remember his extremely graphic death scene in Opera.

Making the film even more odd, McNamara’s character is engaged to Alison, who is played by Lori Loughlin, the mom from 90210.  How often do you get to see a mix of Argento, 90210, and Jim Carrey on screen?

What Didn’t Work?

Jim Carrey!  Don’t get me wrong, Jim did a good enough job playing his role but the whole time you’re watching the film, you keep thinking “that’s not Tim the alcoholic, that’s Jim Carrey.”

What’s ironic about that, of course, is that Jim Carrey is probably the only reason why anyone ever chooses to watch Doing Time On Maple Drive.  Well, Jim Carrey and insomnia.

(As a sidenote, Jim Carrey had to deliver the line, “I’ve done my time on Maple Drive,” which, of course, meant I had to yell, “We have a title!”)

“Oh My God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

During one dramatic moment, Alison tells her boyfriend, “What’s funny is a part of me always suspected you might be gay…”  This line made me cringe just because I said the exact same thing to one of my ex-boyfriends once.  He started crying.  It was just kinda awkward.

Lessons Learned

If you ever meet the “perfect” family, run away.