With sequel, ‘The Mechanic’ gets more mileage from a modest hit

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Jason Statham in “Mechanic: Resurrection.” | Lionsgate

You might not remember when “The Mechanic” came out, and that’s OK.

The remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson action thriller, with Jason Statham as a hitman who kills so expertly it looks like an accident, opened nearly as stealthily on Jan. 28, 2011.

“Mechanic’s” tepid $11.4 million haul ranked it third at the box office that weekend, behind two other forgotten movies, the romantic comedy “No Strings Attached” and horror film “The Rite” (the champ with $14.8 million).

Even with supporting performances by Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland — plus plenty of explosions — “The Mechanic” grossed a so-so $62 million worldwide.

After accounting for promotional costs and theater take on top of its $40 million production budget, “The Mechanic” likely lost money at theaters, says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.

So it’s a surprise to some to see “Mechanic: Resurrection” in theaters this weekend — the rare sequel to a remake and a follow to a film that didn’t wow onscreen.

“I don’t get it,” Bock says. “You don’t see a lot of theatrical bottom lines for a [movie like this] that end up producing a sequel. The math isn’t there.”

But Statham’s assassin Arthur Bishop lived on in home viewing. According to comScore, “The Mechanic” has sold more than 1.5 million home units and was rented more than 2.1 million times.

“When you drill deeper into the numbers and tally the additional revenues, it becomes clear that the Jason Statham business is a great business to be in,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.

The “Resurrection” in the title refers to Bishop’s forced return to the killing business after being presumed dead in a fiery car explosion. Still, it’s an apt title. Jason Constantine, president of acquisitions and co-productions for Lionsgate, which made “Resurrection” with Millennium Films, says his company has released 11 movies with Statham.

“Every single movie we have done with Jason Statham has been profitable,” says Constantine. “We’ve been big believers in Jason, and his fan base is getting even bigger.”

Statham has carried middling franchises such as “Transporter” and “Crank” and played a supporting role in “The Expendables.” Further, he’s on a roll with appearances as the villain in 2015’s “Furious 7” (with sequel “Fast 8” ready for April 14, 2017) and an over-the-top CIA agent in Paul Feig’s comedy “Spy,” a Critics’ Choice-nominated performance.

“Resurrection” director Dennis Gansel says that “Mechanic’s” premise is a solid formula for a “dirty James Bond” franchise. “Resurrection” added to the allure with an attractive love interest (Jessica Alba), a flamboyant arms dealer (Tommy Lee Jones) and exotic locales such as Rio, Sydney and Thailand.

It might not dominate at the box office, given its late-August release date (Bock predicts a $10 million to $12 million opening weekend). But like Arthur Bishop, “Mechanic” could live to see another day.

“We try to give the fans what they want,” Statham says. “Let’s make a movie, have some fun doing it, visit some nice countries and give people 90 minutes of entertainment.”

Bryan Alexander

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