Dolph Lundgren made his directorial debut with the Defender. A great little action movie that was really what his fans could have hoped for, a triumphant return to his best. Now his second film shows that it wasn't merely a flash in the pan, or a fluke. Yes people Dolph Lundgren, never considered much kop in the acting department has now proved he is a more than capable director, even suggesting that his new role deserves him a shot at the big time.
The Mechanik's plot is thus: Nick Cherenko (Lundgren) is an ex-spetznaz, parachutist, who served in Afghanistan. He now lives in his homeland of Russia, with his wife and son working as a mechanic (hence the title.). During a drug deal involving Russian mobster Sasha, his wife and child are killed in the crossfire, Sasha gunning down Nick's wife. Nick later hunts down Sasha and his men, wiping them out and leaving Sasha assumed dead, with a nasty bullet hole in the face. Seven years later Nick is working in LA, illegally, as a mechanic when he is approached to do a job. He is to retrieve the kidnapped Julia, daughter of a wealthy businesswoman. Nick refuse until he discovers who kidnapped her, Sasha. He travels to Russia and meets with Burton (Ben Cross) who will supply him with weapon's and assembles a team of mercs to help Nick get back Julia, while at the same time finishing what he did 7 years previously, killing Sasha. The plot is simple yet writer Bryan Hill allows more focus on characters, clearly in the style of directors like Michael Mann. There are great character moments here, and some superbly played out scenes in amongst the action scenes focusing on character. it's the sort of quiet moments never seen in DTV action films, including a great dinner sequence where Nick and his men relax and unwind, a kind of calm before the storm. The dialogue is also engaging.
The film looks fantastic. The washed out colours, make this reminiscent of brutal 70's revenge flicks like Death Wish and Get Carter. Cinematographer Ross Clarkson has made sure this looks far beyond it's small budget. Similarly Dolph's visual style has developed even more since his exciting debut. He shoots the film with conviction, stylistically picking little apples from different orchards, not simply, as many directors do, picking from merely John Woo's orchard (that guy has no apples left on his trees I can tell you), but Dolph gives reference to a varied group, from Woo, to Mann, to Peter Yates and to modern indie directors like the Bourne films' Doug Liman and Peter Greengrass.
The action is excellent, a step up from the Defender. Again it's plentiful, yet the action is different in style. This time as opposed to a siege movie, this is an ass battering revenge flick so the action consists of bloody and violent shootouts, where like so rarely in his previous movies, every bullet has it's own bullet hole. Windows shatter, splinters fly, chest cavities burst open and things blow up. The fights scenes are brilliantly paced and use martial arts realistically. it's all done in one or two moves. No flashy Van Damme kicks, it's arm breaks, shoulder tosses and neck breaks. Also the film has some vehicular chases that impress too.
The music from Elia Cmirel is atmospheric, and delightfully reminiscent of his work in Ronin, simple, low key and effective. He doesn't go through the motions here, he creates a score, as if proud to be scoring this movie. This is possibly Dolph's best score, particularly in the context of it being a genuinely good little film. In terms of the sound mix, this, like Defender, is pure class. The use of sound is excellent, while the general editing of the film is slick, well paced and never goes overboard.
The cast are good. Dolph Lundgren gives probably his best performance. He doesn't over-stretch himself as many action stars have been prone too, yet he raises his level of performance and does well. Olivia Lee is a rising up and comer who does well as Julia. The remainder of the cast are also excellent. Real class is also added by Ben Cross. He is given a good role as drunk Brit, Burton. Burton is in love with a hooker, who helps get them into Sasha's club to retrieve Julia. Cross is excellent in a role more significant than I thought it would be. He is comical and shows conviction in the dramatic scenes and his presence is a real bonus to an already quality piece.
This film really does show the future to be bright for Lundgren, should he carry on directing his own movies. His cash cow power allows him to get his way on how he wants to film his action, meaning every last penny is spent, and time is taken for more elaborate set-ups. Lundgren shows himself worthy of another shot at the big time in a film Van Damme and Seagal could only dream of having on their CV's. In a generally great year for films, Dolph has produced that rare thing, a decent, well made, DTV movie. Not only that but he has done it twice! This is Lundgren's best by some way!