| A modern reimagining of the original 1972 action thriller finds Jason Statham ("The Transporter") taking the leading role baton from Charles Bronson. The title is an American underworld slang term for a professional killer.
Arthur Bishop (Statham) takes pride in his clean kills and operates alone in carrying out his assignments. He is a hardened individual and a man of few words. He makes his victims' untimely deaths look like accidents. His best work throws suspicion on someone else and leaves no trace that he was ever there.
The movie opens with a dialogue-free introduction much like the original movie. Bishop emerges from the bottom of an indoor swimming pool to strangle a drug cartel leader. He returns to his home on the bayous in New Orleans and collects his blood money in cash from his mentor and friend Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland from "Lord of War" and "The Italian Job"). Harry is confined to a wheelchair and always accompanied by two bodyguards.
Arthur's next target ironically turns out to be Harry. Arthur can't believe it and arranges a meeting with Dean Sanderson (Tony Goldwyn from "The Last Samurai" and "Ghost"), the head of his employing criminal organization.
Sanderson explains that Harry leaked information that got a five-man team killed in a failed assassination attempt. Since Harry poisoned the well, Arthur must eliminate him in 48 hours.
Arthur devises an ingenious plan to get Harry alone in an underground parking garage. He makes Harry's death look like a suicide.
At the cemetery during Harry's burial, Arthur crosses paths with Steve (Ben Foster from "The Messenger" and "3:10 to Yuma"), Harry's troubled "loose cannon" son. Steve tells Arthur, "I want to know what you know." Arthur takes him on as an apprentice and teaches him the tools of the trade.
The slickly told story never drags in a brisk running time of 92 minutes. The lethal combination of the cool, detached and emotionless Arthur with the grown-up juvenile delinquent Steve yields a high body count. Director Simon West ("Con Air") provides viewers a pure adrenaline rush with non-stop action in spades. The eye candy includes fast cars, big machine guns, huge pyrotechnic explosions and beautiful women. The standout hottie is Swedish model Mini Anden who plays Sara, a prostitute Arthur meets at a discotheque.
The contemporary screenplay by Richard Wenk ("16 Blocks") veers away from the more subtle approach taken by Lewis John Carlino in the brilliantly conceived 1972 original story. The slam-bang "gotcha" ending will leave you shaking your head.
Classical music is injected into the soundtrack for a nice change of pace. Statham does all his own stunts and gets an opportunity to exhibit his mixed martial arts skills. Statham and Foster play off each other well, maintaining their stature as tough-looking hombres.
This is a movie you seek out for action rather than acting and character development. It provides a great escape from the winter doldrums.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"