THE MECHANIC (15)***

As one of Hollywood's new generation of hard men, Jason Statham has put the pedal to the metal on numerous occasions to outmanoeuvre cops and bad guys, including high-octane chases in the Transporter films and the 2008 remake of Death Race.

The title of Simon West's action-packed thriller suggests the muscular British actor will be getting his knuckles dirty with more engine grease.

While Statham's character does spend part of the film polishing and rebuilding a classic sports car, the eponymous mechanic is in fact slang for a hit man, who shoots first and growls inane lines of dialogue later.

Michael Winner's 1972 film of the same name pairing Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent provides the inspiration for this predictable tale of revenge and retribution that intercuts limp banter with well-orchestrated action sequences.

West has a proven track record with explosive popcorn fodder that doesn't tax the brain (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider).

Here, he conceives a botched assassination attempt in a hotel and a bone-crunching fist fight that puts one of his actors through the wringer.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is one of the best assassins in the business: Clean, efficient and completely ruthless, he kills on demand and foregoes messy personal relationships by enjoying sex with high class prostitute Sarah (Mini Anden).

Out of the blue, Arthur receives a call from Dean (Tony Goldwyn), who needs the hit man to eliminate a traitor in the organisation.

The target is Arthur's mentor, Harry (Donald Sutherland).

"Harry McKenna has poisoned the well. He needs to be removed immediately," explains Dean, offering damning evidence of the old man's nefarious activities.

Having put his feelings to one side and successfully completed his mission, Arthur crosses paths with Harry's grief-stricken son, Steve (Ben Foster), who implores Arthur to find his father's killer.

Consumed with guilt, Arthur decides to take on Steve as an apprentice, training him in the art of assassination.

Alas, the newcomer's impetuosity and fiery temperament make him a major liability.

The Mechanic is everything you expect from a film bearing Statham's name: Loud, simplistic and bruising for a brawl.

Screenwriters Lewis John Carlino, who wrote the 1972 version, and Richard Wenk don't saddle their leading man with too much demanding dialogue, leaving Foster to deliver something close to a three-dimensional performance.

They dispatch Sutherland's rogue in a wheelchair with little fanfare then signpost the glaringly obvious deception that will set Arthur and Steve on a collision course to self-destruction.

A brief sex scene unfolds as valentine to Statham's heaving chest, accentuating the hero's macho credentials before he takes down a heavily protected empire without breaking a sweat.

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