Bronson is hit man (aka “mechanic”) Arthur Bishop. He’s a bit of a dandy in his private life; a refined connoisseur of high culture, outfitted at home in a bright red smoking robe. He’s also a karate expert. After all, maintaining a superb physique is ultra-important in his line of work. The most interesting sequence is its opening 16 minutes, during which Bishop meticulously plots a hit in an apartment he’s been monitoring. This is pure, elemental filmmaking, without so much as a word of dialogue uttered for the entire stretch. The witless dialogue that follows makes one wish there had been far less talking throughout the remaining 84 minutes.
Bishop makes the acquaintance of the son of one his targets, a near-sociopathic young man named Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent). A friendship of sorts develops, one that never really makes sense. Originally there was to be a gay relationship between Bishop and Steve. What we’re left with certainly implies, at least subtly, that there’s an attraction between these two men. But it never really amounts to anything. Without the romantic angle, it always seems highly implausible that Bishop would carry on with this arrogant kid. Bishop, against his superiors’ approval, takes Steve under his wing and trains him to be a mechanic. The action is all pretty dull, but Bishop and Steve’s partnership does build to an effectively-staged surprise ending.
The Mechanic shows its age on Blu-ray, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Gritty and grainy, the work of cinematographers Richard H. Kline and Robert Paynter (the latter filmed the European scenes) is effectively unpolished. Sharpness varies fairly significantly from scene to scene (probably inherent in the original cinematography), but generally things are a bit on the soft side. The only real distraction, though, are the weak black levels (nighttime sequences lean toward gray). The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack gets the job done, but the increased fidelity only makes the exceptionally poor ADR all the more evident. The dubbed lines rarely blend well, sounding too close-miked and sometimes just shy of distorted, but that’s not the fault of the audio track.
Jerry Fielding’s score is presented as an isolated track in DTS-HD MA 2.0. The main supplement is a new audio commentary by filmmaker and film historian Nick Redman with cinematographer Richard H. Kline. The format is something new to Kline, who needed the concept of an audio commentary explained to him at the start of the track. That moment of awkwardness aside, this is a cool inclusion that includes good background information about the film. Julie Kirgo adds one of her ace essays to the package (each Twilight Time booklet includes one).
To order this limited edition release (only 3,000 copies issued), visit the official site of Twilight Time’s exclusive distributor: Screen Archives.