Jason Statham vs. Charles Bronson vs. Chicken Teriyaki

Patti Perret/CBS Films
Statham blows stuff up real good.
The Dinner: Chicken teriyaki at Yummy Teriyaki (622 First Ave. N.).

The Movie: The Mechanic at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: When, in his remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie, assassin Jason Statham goes to meet with his boss (Donald Sutherland), he prefers they sit at ordinary, crowded, roadside eateries where no one could possibly remember them from the throng of customers. Hitman Arthur Bishop's job is to go unnoticed. His credo as killer is to make the hit look like an accident: a drowning or drug overdose or gas-main explosion, but never anything so obvious as an actual shooting. Driving an old pickup truck around New Orleans, keeping a low-rent apartment there and sleeping only with hookers, he's the soul of discretion during his murderous work week. Yummy Teriyaki is just the kind of joint he'd frequent while on the job, on the D.L. . . .

The parking lot is key. Escape. A door through the kitchen to where your getaway vehicle is idling. Yummy Teriyaki is set on a corner, meaning a 180-degree view of all possible assailants. Easy in, easy out. There's even WiFi for take-out customers, which would certainly benefit Bishop, who spends half The Mechanic doing Google searches and hacking various high-tech security systems. He's as much IT manager as killer, armed equally by Apple and Glock.

Yummy offers crisp and efficient value for a rootless hitman such as Bishop (you can even order online). The staff is friendly, but the place isn't exactly warm--just another fast-food joint in a strip mall where people do their shopping without much eye contact, just the way Bishop prefers. Yet the chicken teriyaki ($6.99) is clean and quite edible, served with a lightly dressed salad; and for those who choose to linger in the restaurant, there's beer and a flat-screen TV usually tuned to sports. It's well-suited to solitary dining while one checks his e-mail ("Hmmm, who do I kill this week?") or meets the boss or new protégé (Ben Foster, in this case, as the hothead Steve, who hopes to avenge the death of his father--the Sutherland character). Eating and meeting are but a prelude to killing for Bishop.

On weekends, however, it's a different story. The epicure in Bishop comes out, and Statham's polished action-movie image begins to grate against the rickety old plot. In the Charles Bronson original, Bishop at work and at play weren't so different. Here, Statham retreats from work to his vintage-chic weekend home on the bayou, accessible only by boat, where he listens to his tube amp hi-fi and restores an old V-12 Jaguar E-Type. He lounges in an Eames chair, surrounded by other well-worn midcentury modern furniture. The metrosexual comes out: This Bishop is a closeted aesthete, a man with the taste for life's finer pleasures (though not the hookers, whom he leaves behind in filthy NOLA). Soon, Foster's young male apprentice moves in with Bishop, begins learning from him, doubling him, dressing like him, shooting the same fire-spitting weapons in tandem with him at the target range. Theirs is a classic master/pupil relationship that would find approval with Plato and the ancient Greeks: rigorous, refined, and not a woman in sight. They would never corrupt their tutorial bond with anything so impure as food, let alone teriyaki.

Back in Seattle, granted, Yummy isn't the kind of place you'd take a date. ("Honey, I know this romantic little spot between the FedEx/Kinko's and Verizon shop . . . ") It's functional, not posh. And posh is what Statham is forever fighting against in his career, since he emerged in the late '90s in Guy Ritchie's lad films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Since then, in the Transporter series and Euro thrillers like The Bank Job, he's become the Old World's best answer to our aging stable of American action stars. He's no accented joke, like Van Damme; and his bald glower and six-pack abs are still more impressive than any young Yankee pretenders.

Statham is, however, no Bronson (a tough, leathery, fearsome age 51 in the first Mechanic, more than a decade older than Statham). And Bronson, though he betrays a few doubts and kinks in that film, was no aesthete. He wasn't posh; he had no need for fancy and refined. He was a graduate of The Dirty Dozen, a veteran of World War II. He would happily eat at Yummy Teriyaki, every night of the week. If they asked him to hunt down and kill the chickens, he'd do that, too. And with his hands--not Statham's computers and cell phones and mini-video cameras. Even though Bronson became a Hollywood star, and something of an icon in Europe, he never shook his blue-collar roots. In any movie, he never looks out of place in a cheap diner or coffee shop or fast-food joint like Yummy. But Statham, as the sleek, serene action star of today, trails his Euro success behind him like expensive cologne (one that you can only buy at an unmarked shop in SoHo). His teriyaki days are behind him; he's even making movies with Robert De Niro (The Killer Elite, due sometime this year). Actual mechanics might eat at Yummy Teriyaki, but not The Mechanic.

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