As slow as molasses and just as exciting, The Mechanic wants to be a Jean-Pierre Melville film, but instead proves merely a sluggish marriage of affected existentialism and brute violence. Director Michael Winner’s methodical pacing, casual references to masculine “codes,” and two scenes involving martial arts – not to mention his story’s focus on a loner hitman (Charles Bronson) – all position the proceedings as a faux-Le Samouraï, though it goes without saying that Bronson is no Alain Delon. In truth, he’s not even very Bronson-y here, what with the material sidestepping the sort of vicious sadism that would increasingly become the stoic icon’s trademark. In this go-nowhere saga, Bronson’s “mechanic” Arthur Bishop lives a solitary life performing assassinations for the shadowy “Organization,” his work supposedly defined by clean professionalism even though – as in an intro murder involving a gas leak and hidden explosives ignited by a gunshot – he goes out of his way to make his job more complicated than necessary. Breaking his ritual (a noir no-no that immediately spells doom), Bishop not only befriends amoral Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent) – during an evening in which McKenna refuses to humor or aid a suicidal gal pal – but actually takes the young man on as an apprentice, leading to more elaborate if still lethargic killings. Bronson comes off as less cold and ruthless than borderline-asleep during this middling action, and Vincent seems as vacant as usual. As such, they’re a fittingly blank pair for this stagnant jalopy of a badass ‘70s crime film.