by Jef Burnham
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Jason Statham (The Expendables, Crank) stars in this remake of the 1972 film starring Charles Bronson. After being blatantly duped into assassinating his only friend and mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland), hitman with heart Arthur Bishop (Statham) takes in Harry’s deadbeat son Steve (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma) and trains him in the ways of the professional hitman. The pair set about avenging Harry’s murder (which, again, was committed by Arthur), only for the two to turn on each other in the end.
Statham is once again cast as a benevolent hitman. The only difference between this one and those previously played by Statham is that here he is occasionally seen standing next to Ben Foster. Also, he’s nowhere near as cool as Chev Chelios, but that, I’d say, is a given. When provided opportunities to do something interesting with Arthur throughout the course of the narrative, the filmmakers invariably pass it up in favor of the trite. He’s just your average, classic car-restoring, Schubert-appreciating, woman-who-may-or-may-not-be-a-prostitute-screwing, hitman with a heart of gold. Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai, Ghost) plays Arthur’s ineffectual antagonist, Dean, whose only real contribution to the narrative is hiring Arthur to kill Harry in the opening of the film. Thereafter, he’s virtually pointless until he and his goons give Arthur and Steve a chance to kill a whole mess of people during the climactic action sequence.
What’s worse, the conclusion of the film completely contradicts the thematic underpinnings that allowed for said action-packed climax to occur in the first place. Given that one of the primary threads of the film addresses and asserts the right of the characters to seek justice by murdering those who have wronged them, the conclusion (spoilers), in which Arthur kills Steve for attempting to avenge his father’s murder by Arthur’s hand, is a hypocritical joke, undermining the film’s already moronically skewed version of ethics. Granted, in the original, very similar events take place, but with very different motivations. Here, we are led to believe that Steve’s attempt on Arthur is not to avenge his father, but as a sort of hitman right of passage. This remake offers audiences nothing new or interesting, and should only be consumed by the devoted Jason Statham fan. I recommend instead renting the 1972 original.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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