When I was starting to get interested in films as a teenager, my mom stoked the flames by introducing me to a number of great ones like Lifeboat and an edited version of Witness. And then she told me about a 1972 film called The Mechanic. It has a fantastic ending, I was told. It was rated PG, so I didn’t think there would be anything too risqué about it. Little did I know that this is one movie that has an ending so good that it actually blows away everything else that happens in it.
I was bored through most of it. The opening 20 minutes are devoid of dialogue. We just see Charles Bronson surveilling a man. He breaks into the man’s apartment and does things to his stove, teabags, and one of his books that aren’t terribly clear at first. In the end, Bronson murders the man in a way that’s supposed to look like an accident, though that’s never made clear. I guess the audience is supposed to put the pieces together, but the teenage me was lost and unengaged. My mom assured me it would get better.
I wanted to turn it off when it came to the attempted-suicide scene. My mom apparently forgot about that scene. A young woman is seeking attention by claiming she’s going to kill herself because she’s depressed. So her boyfriend tells her to put up or shut up. And she actually goes through with it, slitting her wrist with a razor. We spend an uncomfortable amount of time with the character as she slowly bleeds out and begs her boyfriend to stop her. He eventually takes pity on her and tosses her a set of car keys, telling her that she can drive herself to get help. He’s not going to save her, but at least she has a fighting chance to save herself. Somehow I kept going.
There were a few other parts I was surprised that my mom was okay with me watching. But when I reached the end of the film, I understood why she had been okay with letting me watch it. My mom felt at least partly vindicated when that part finally came because I had to admit it was amazing. The only scene besides the ending that stuck with me all these years is the one with the attempted suicide. You don’t forget something like that. But when I went back and rewatched the film recently, it was a mostly unfamiliar experience. Nothing else in the film is all that memorable. I can usually remember all sorts of things about films after I watch them, but even right after seeing The Mechanic, I struggle to recall anything specific in it. It just feels like it should be called 1970s: The Movie.
I can’t fault my mom at all for allowing me to watch this movie when I wasn’t really ready for its odd adult themes. I can empathize because seriously, this ending is so good. Before you watch it, here’s some context. Charles Bronson takes in a young Jan-Michael Vincent as his apprentice after murdering his father. Bronson is a trained killer who methodically murders his victims at the behest of a shadowy organization. Unfortunately, Vincent is tasked with murdering Bronson while they’re on a mission in Naples, and this is the result.
Man, that packs a punch. It feels both like it comes out of nowhere and like it’s the natural resolution to the story. Vincent studies Bronson, seeking a weakness to exploit – and he finds it. But it turns out that Bronson was prepared for that eventuality and so from beyond the grave he manages to pull off one last hit on his apprentice. It’s rather poetic for two expert assassins to go down as victims of each other. They were so good that no one else could do the job.
I’m not sure if that ending makes up for the rest of the film, which is so-so at best. But the one thing I do know is that there’s nothing else in the movie worth remembering. The movie sticks the landing so well with its final moments that it’s completely understandable why one may not remember anything leading up to it.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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You have such great perspectives on movies, Rob. It’s fun to read your blog.
Have you ever watched Telefon? I don’t know if it achieved acclaim in its time, but it’s a gripping movie from start to finish, for sure.
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Thank you! I haven’t watched Telefon since I was a kid, but I remember liking it. It even inspired a memorable scene from The Naked Gun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWQKspWKq9M