Film: The Mechanic

"Murder is only killing without a license."

The Mechanic is a 1972 action thriller. Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson), an aging assassin, is hired to kill "Big Harry" McKenna (Keenan Wynn), which he does with his usual resourceful genius. At the funeral he meets Big Harry's son, Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent). Steve becomes interested in the art of being an assassin, so Bishop plays along and then trains the young man to become a professional killer. Steve is taught to use the mechanic's tools until he becomes a master. Arthur Bishop's superiors aren't accepting of Bishop doing this, and in the end they find that they can trust no one. It is a defining example of the seventies action film, and has existentialist themes.

The film was remade in 2011, with Jason Statham as Bishop and Ben Foster as Steve.

Tropes used by both versions:

Tropes used by the original:

  • Car Chase: And a bike chase.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Bishop and Steve are watching a martial arts demonstration where Bishop points out there is a new guy who has new moves and the older man who believes they are useless, but they aren't really trying to hurt each other. When the new guy pulls an illegal move which injures the older man, he then proceeds to beat the living tar out of the new guy. Lampshaded by Steve later when he remarks to Bishop how the old man almost murdered the new guy.
  • Evil Gloating: By McKenna after he poisons Bishop.
  • A Glass in the Hand: Arthur demonstrates the strength in his fingers (from repeated squeezing a lump of putty) by breaking a glass from the inside. "Sometimes you've got to hold onto a mark."
  • The Hero Dies: Bishop himself at the end. But at least he makes sure that Steve wouldn't get away with it.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Averted with the Lack of Empathy of the two protagonists highlighted in several ways for instance Arthur realises Steve has what it takes to be his understudy when the latter watches a former girlfriend who's slit her wrists to get his attention bleed over the course of several hours (she lives, but only because they give her the car keys so she can drive herself to the hospital). A more subtle scene is when Arthur is at the hospital, he walks past a young boy with an artificial leg without even a sympathetic glance.
  • Love Interest: Subverted.
    • Bishop appears to have one, but she's revealed after sex to be an expensive prostitute he's paying for what these days would be called a GFE (Girlfriend Experience).
    • Steve comes over after his girlfriend calls him to say she's going to commit suicide. Making no effort to stop her or even recommend against her doing so, he calmly watches as she slits her wrists. Eventually, he does toss her the keys to her car and point out if she drives fast can make the nearest ranger station in 20 minutes if she's not really interested in dying.
  • The Mafia: Implied though not stated outright to be Arthur's employers.
  • Neck Snap: Bishop does this to a chicken delivery truck driver so he and Steve can infiltrate a mark's well-protected compound.
  • No Dialogue Episode: The first 20 minutes of the film have no dialog, as we watch Bishop set up a hit on one of his victims.
  • Oh Crap!: Steve himself at the end when he realizes that the Red Mustang he's in is rigged with a car bomb.
  • Porn Stache: Charles Bronson's got one.
  • Reading Lips: Along with a powerful telescope, Bishop uses this skill to find out about an impending drug delivery, so he and Steve can infiltrate a Big Fancy House posing as the drug mules.
  • The Seventies: Very evident.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: On the cynical side.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Steve shares a celebratory bottle of wine with Bishop, having coated the Bishop's glass with brucine. Mocking Bishop while waiting for him to die, he is unaware that Bishop knew this would happen. Thinking that he can now take over Bishop's life and career, he finds a note on the steering wheel from Bishop. "End of game. Bang! You're dead." The car door sets off a timer connected to a bomb that explodes.
    • Although, you have to wonder... I checked up on brucine, it's an alkaloid so it should taste bitter. Plus, the lethal dose is like 1 gram of pure stuff, so if enough of it gets added to wine so that the victim gets a gram in one mouthful I'm thinking that's going to really change the taste. Steve said he coated the glass with a solution, which can't have been enough. Plus, Bishop kind of got his heart attack way too quickly; you'd think for an ingested poison there'd be some delay before the effects kick in. Maybe it was more a Batman Gambit - Bishop was planning to disappear anyway, so he pretended he got poisoned then blew up Steve so the organization would think he was the one in the car.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Arthur knows Steve is planning to kill him, and is surprised when Steve kills a mook who's got the drop on him.
  • Uriah Gambit: How the Mob shows its displeasure with Bishop's decision to take on Steve as an apprentice.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Steve's Girlfriend Louise, Inverted. She survives her suicide attempt and later Steve (off screen) visits her for "a certain thing she does" which is implied to be something sexual in nature.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted.
    Bishop: Was it because of your father?
    Steve: You killed him? I thought he just died.

Tropes used by the remake:

  • Car Fu: Bishop kills another hitman by throwing him through a bus window into the path of an oncoming car. The vehicle vs. vehicle version is used in the Dean ambush.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: Bishop kills an Arms Dealer this way to Make It Look Like an Accident, strangling him with his own belt, then hanging him up with some porn playing on a laptop in front of him. His protege Steve then makes the mistake of trying to copy this method on his first target - unfortunately his victim is a very fit and powerfully built hitman.
  • Fast Roping: Improvised with ropes from a window-cleaning rig.
  • Fingore: Bishop pretends to force a girl's hand into the waste shredder to encourage her father to talk. It's actually raw steak.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Not really a case of good and bad, but Bishop has his beautiful high-class escort writhing on top of him, while McKenna has rough sex in an alley.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Used as a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Bishop is talking on his mobile to Steve who is waiting at his house.
    Bishop: I'm guessing you're not alone. (wide shot shows three mooks pointing guns at Steve) There's a gun down the left side cushion. It's loaded and the safety's off.
    Steve: I'm not a lefty.
    Bishop: Then you're going to die.
    (Steve hands his mobile back to the mook; with the other hand he shoots the man behind him, then the others)
  • Improvised Weapon: Used in the hitman vs. hitman scenes.
  • Kill It with Fire: Double Subversion. Towards the end of the film, it appears that Bishop has been killed by McKenna in a massive explosion. It turns out that not only did he survive the explosion, but he rigged McKenna's car with a bomb.
  • Manly Gay: The Mighty Glacier rival mechanic.
  • Oh Crap!:
  • Out with a Bang: McKenna decides to kill Burke this way. It doesn't go well.
  • Rated M for Manly: The female characters are incidental in this story.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Steve forgoes the easy method of poisoning Burke at the bar, for the risky method of going home with him and trying to strangle the mark with his own belt as he saw Bishop do to an earlier mark. Things don't go well.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The chihuahua that Bishop and McKenna adopt for a mission (later given to Bishop's prostitute friend and named Arthur).