A hired killer begins training a protégé in this slick action flick that was based on a Charles Bronson movie of the same title. Not just any old Bronson outing either, this was a classic that saw him sharing the screen with a young Jan-Michael Vincent. The two may not have had the best relationship while making the movie but their chemistry made it a classic.
Usually remakes are pretty useless but this reboot boasts a fine pedigree. It was written by Lewis John Carlino(who wrote the original) and it was produced by the sons of the guys who made the original. Every effort is made to do something a little different too while still hewing lose to the tone of the classic version. It’s a delicate balancing act but they pull it off-mostly.
First off you get a crackerjack sequence in which we see Arthur Bishop do what he does best- killing another guy for money. He is no thug but more of an artisan who manages to take out a drug cartel bigwig and make it look like the sap drowned in his own pool. He then manages to effect an escape without being seen.
Back home he meets with his handler, McKenna. He chides his manager for not spending more time with his grown son while McKenna lashes back that Bishop needs to spend time cultivating a relationship that doesn’t end with him killing that person.
Right away a new assignment pops up in Bishop’s e-mail(didn’t he learn anything from Hillary Clinton’s troubles?)and it is a whopper. Apparently the big boss wants him to take out McKenna. Bishop asks for a meeting with the boss( who turns out to be a yuppie type named Dean). He reveals that McKenna took a huge payoff form a man in Africa for giving up a hit team who were then wiped out.
Bishop is sold. He takes the job and kills his friend but now feels responsible for McKenna’s son, Steve. Being a big hearted guy he opts to train Steve to be a killer in the Arthur mode(baking him cookies might have been a better idea). The lessons end in a gruesome final exam where Steve is almost killed by a huge target who also happens to be a killer. The pair celebrate by taking a job while Steve’s face still looks like so much hamburger from the beating he took.
Their assignment almost fails and leads to an exciting sequence in which the pair must split up and outwit a team of killers. Luckily the chase starts at the top of a building and there is nowhere to escape but straight down. Bishop makes it to the airport where he spies a familiar face. One of the team that was supposedly killed in Africa, thanks to McKenna’s betrayal.
He realizes that a hit man can’t trust anyone. It all comes down to lots of shooting, betrayals, and operating a city bus in an unsafe manner. Great stuff.
This works because they don’t try to duplicate Bronson. Instead they use Jason Statham who is more of a hands on action star. Ben Foster is okay as Steve but he and Statham have zero chemistry together which robs the film of a satisfying coda. Tony Goldwyn, however, all but steals it as their suave but untrustworthy boss. The film was mostly shot in New Orleans and the city has never looked better onscreen . Music fans will enjoy a brief appearance by ‘The Squirrel Nut Zippers” as a house band.
This is just the tip of the iceberg with another remake of a Bronson hit with Hollywood rebooting ,”Death Wish.”
Best Lines: ” Good judgment comes from experience ,and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
“I’m gonna put a price on your head so big that when you look in the mirror your own reflection is gonna want to shoot you in the face.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.