Jason Statham is a pretty decent action hero. His face is carved out of granite, and he only favors us with the tiniest of smiles, and those infrequently. He was one of three actors that Spider Robinson and I thought might have been much better in the part of Jack Reacher, the protagonist of the terrific books by Lee Child, than pipsqueak Tom Cruise. (The other two: Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.) Let’s face it, Tom’s a good actor, in spite of the looniness of his private life, but all the acting talent in the world is not going to make him 6’5” and 230 pounds of muscle. Go back to Mission Impossible, Tom, and let someone else be Jack Reacher.
Arthur Bishop is the mechanic, another word for hit man, but he’s not your normal shoot-‘em-up type. He favors killings where it looks like an accidental, death, if at all possible. He’s not squeamish, he just knows there will be less heat if the Colombian drug lord drowns in his own swimming pool. He works a lot for a large company, and they have a problem. A five-man assassination team they sent to South Africa were all killed. Only two people knew who they were and how to find them. So one, a button-down corporate type, hires Bishop to kill the other, an elderly Donald Sutherland, who is in a wheelchair. Donald is an old friend of his, and he doesn’t really want to do it. But he does.
(This is my only real problem with the film. I don’t think I need to issue a spoiler warning here, as I doubted this story right from the start, and I think Bishop would have, too. But there you go. I didn’t let it ruin the whole movie for me.)
Out of guilt, he reluctantly teams up with Donald’s ne’er-do-well son (Ben Foster), teaching him the tricks of the trade. The kid is pretty stupid at first, almost gets himself killed on his first job because he lets his bloodlust overrule his judgement … what little he has. But he is not untalented, and he gets better as he goes along.
The action sequences are first-rate, and don’t tax my credulity too much. Most of the stuff they do is at least possibly doable, except of course for the standard idiocy of never being hit by fusillades of bullets from the bad guys. These days, if that bothers you, you’d better not go to action movies.