Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) is good at what he does, in fact he's one of the best. Today he is on a new assignment and checks into a rented, one room apartment as part of it, setting up his camera equipment to observe the building opposite. He doesn't mind taking his time and waits until he can break into the apartment of the man he is watching, fixing the gas cooker in such a manner that it becomes very dangerous. How dangerous? Enough so that when Bishop fires his rifle at it through the window from across the street, the entire floor blows up: that's right, he's a hitman.
Or a mechanic if you prefer the way the title would have it. Bronson had spent quite some time in Europe by the time he made this, an American film, so it was appropriate that he, director Michael Winner and writer Lewis John Carlino should fashion a work that closely resembled a thriller that might well have emerged from France if it had subtitles (or bad dubbing for that stumbling across it on late night on TV feel). This isn't quite Le Samourai, but that's the type of mood they're aiming for, with Bronson the lone killer who makes the mistake of allowing more people into his life than he really needs.
Winner makes an artistic choice in the first quarter of an hour or so to stop Bronson from saying a word as we watch him go about his methods, making us all the more absorbed to find out what he'll say when he finally does speak. It might be a bit of a letdown when we find out he doesn't have an enormous amount of interest to relate, but The Mechanic's strength is far from in its dialogue. Once the opening is over with, we settle into the main meat of the storyline, where Bishop is over at a friend of his late father's, Big Harry (Keenan Wynn).
Wynn doesn't last long, because he is next on Bishop's hitlist, but while they are in discussion Bishop happens to meet Harry's son Steve (Jan-Michael Vincent). They meet again at the funeral and the older man, who has no family or even much in the way of friends (predictably, Jill Ireland appears in a cameo as a prostitute who is enamoured of him), decides to take Steve under his wing and train him up as an assassin. He discovers that the young man is killer material in a truly weird scene when they both visit Steve's girlfriend Louise (Linda Ridgeway) and watch her suicide attempt.
Even though Steve eventually gives Louise the keys to the car so she can drive herself to the police and save herself, he does it in such an offhand manner that we are left in no doubt he is some kind of sociopath, no matter his personal charm. And so Bishop teaches him, taking him along on his missions, which are curiously all involved with the rich: according to this, if you live in a big house and enjoy a moneyed lifestyle, your days are numbered because there will always be someone out to get you - or at least disrupt your posh garden party. The Mechanic is too low key to really get excited about, but it has a cool and collected demeanour that translates as a decent degree of stylish refinement, especially for a Winner-Bronson team up and the ending may be predictable, but it satisfies for all that. Music by Jerry Fielding.