The death of the theatrical experience is a story journalists love to write. Hell, anything with the word “death” in the title gives writers a most epic half chub. I’m not sure when everyone became obsessed with decay. Seems like I can’t make it through the day without someone telling me how damn busted up everything is.
For years people have been writing long-winded rants about how movie theaters have the life expectancy of Rupert Murdoch in a hole full of hungry crocodiles. They were making the same argument back when the VCR was first unveiled. Yet, here we are decades later with people still heading to the movies.
The VCR didn’t kill the movie theater. Netflix didn’t kill the theatrical experience. Yes, there are a ridiculous number of entertainment options available to a nation of media-hungry vegetables. Rather than opine frantically about the strengths and weaknesses of both, I decided to do a little experiment and check an offering in the theaters and at home to weigh strengths and weaknesses of watching new movies at the theater and at home.
The late summer has always been a time when Hollywood dumps movies into theaters with the enthusiasm of a comatose millennial at a lecture about waning attention spans. “Mechanic: Resurrection” is an epic piece of action dumpster-diving that has no reason to exist. In fact, it kind of exemplifies the problems currently plaguing Hollywood: a pointless sequel that brings nothing new to the equation. Jason Statham might be the very definition of “nothing new.”
Arthur Bishop (Statham) is the world’s greatest assassin who has decided to give up his life of killing people because he’s in love. To be fair, it’s for Jessica Alba. If anyone was capable of stopping me from being awesome to stay inside for marathon-naked fun, it would be her. Of course, bad asses with super murdering skills never stay retired. Our hero is put in an impossible situation and must kill a number of bad guys in 36 hours or lose his lady love. This would seem like an insurmountable task, but Jason Statham eats impossible situations for breakfast and craps them out before lunch. There’s really nothing wrong with “Mechanic: Resurrection.” It’s an average action film that never takes itself too seriously. It’s made infinitely more bearable by Tommy Lee Jones, who spends every scene making folks wonder how big of a paycheck he made to appear.
“Blood Father” presents a similar scenario. Hollywood exile Mel Gibson plays Link, an ex-con with a shady past who is also really good at killing people. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, which plays a lot more into the narrative than when I originally thought. For the most part, I’d expect a character trait like “recovering alcoholic” to be all but forgotten once the action gets going, but they actually manage to work the recovery process into the plot even when old Mel is bustin’ caps in people’s asses. Like “Mechanic,” “Blood Father” revolves around saving a loved one. Link’s daughter is an epic fuck-up who has gotten herself in trouble with some nasty members of a drug cartel, who are sparing no expense to see her killed.
Even though their relationship is especially strained, Link risks life and limb to make sure his daughter stays safe. I was expecting a half-baked B movie from “Blood Father,” but there’s some passion in this pulp. The father-daughter relationship feels real, and there are moments where Gibson shows you why he was such a great leading man for so long. I was reminded a lot of the underrated “Payback,” another movie where Gibson plays a really good bad guy.
“Blood Father” is an effective, gritty thriller with some strong performances and surprising amount of heart. “Mechanic: Resurrection” was so generic it could be called “Jason Statham Movie” with a number on the end to designate a difference. While the theatrical experience might not be dying, the kind of movies you go to see at a theater has dramatically changed. The line between the quality of film you’re going to see on demand or in a theater is becoming more blurry. Ten years ago a movie like “Blood Father” would have been something you saw on the big screen. While “Jason Statham Movie 23” doesn’t have anything going for it that would make seeing it at the theater a mandate.
Two and half out of five stars
Directed by Dennis Gansel
Starring Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones
Three out of five stars
Directed by Jean-François Richet
Starring Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna
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