Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Medical Lessons from The Mechanic

"Best jobs are the ones that nobody knows that you were even there."

Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop
in The Mechanic (2011)

Believe it or not, movies aren't the best sources of medical facts. Occasionally, they get it spot on; the most commendable example in recent memory being 127 Hours. More often than not, they make truly laughable mistakes - and being a medical student who also loves films, I've long learnt to just block out the inaccuracies when I encounter them. That's how I cope.

Then, there are movies like The Mechanic which goes above and beyond the call of duty to get shit wrong.

Jason Statham is Arthur Bishop, a "mechanic" or contract killer who took on an apprentice called Steven McKenna (played really well by Ben Foster, by the way). On one of their jobs, they had to kill a grossly obese cult leader, Vaughn, and make it look like an accident. This being a film about the thinking man's assassins, Statham's protégé suggested that they would inject their target with adrenaline in order to precipitate a heart attack. Statham astutely pointed out that that is an unreliable way to kill a guy. Then, in a moment of a-ha brilliance, Steven said that when the paramedics try to revive him, they will unknowingly administer epinephrine - which according to Steven is toxic after cross-reacting with adrenaline.

Mistake? Adrenaline and epinephrine are just different names for the same drug.

The Mechanic Adrenaline vs Epinephrine
Statham and Foster, just making shit up as they go along.
Overlooking their hilarious misunderstanding of drug names, I agree that too much adrenaline slash epinephrine can totally kill someone through an "overdose" so to speak - but here's the snag in their plan. They wanted to use adrenaline to get their victim's heart pumping so vigorously that he'll get a myocardial infarction (or heart attack, in everyday parlance) - and it'll probably work because Vaughn looks like a coronary case waiting to happen anyway - but epinephrine isn't used to treat heart attacks; especially not if the EMTs find the guy in tachyarrhythmia.

Then it gets worse. Oh yes. Just when the duo was about to carry out their "cunning plan", Vaughn started tripping balls from intravenous ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic. On the streets, it's called "Special K". This supposedly put a crimp in their murderous intent because according to the pair, ketamine nullifies the effects of adrenaline. Not true. That's just some high grade bullshit pulled right out of a bull's ass.

What annoys me most is that the film tried so hard to portray Statham and Foster's characters as resourceful, erudite killers of men - all while at the same time, the most asinine nonsense imaginable drip from their lips. Now, I consider the ceiling of my suspension of disbelief to be pretty high, but The Mechanic shattered it through the roof.

Aside from all that, it was an okay action flick. That's pretty much the kindest thing I can say about it.

Minor spoiler: They ended up shoving a scope down Vaughn's throat to asphyxiate him while covering his nose and mouth with their hands. I thought that was kind of redundant because having their hands clapped over all his airways would have suffocated him just fine.

The Medic,
k0k s3n w4i


Jen said...

Get that review on 127 Hours out stat! I loved it. Was biting my fingers off during the cutting scene! D:

Ninja said...

I dont know anything about drugs, so I just swallowed what the movie gave me...

Thanks for enlightenment!

Alynna said...

Nice. Do you watch Grey's Anatomy too or any other med drama? I wonder if there are serious inconsistencies (read fuck-ups) in those.

Rewarp said...

Well, half of sci-fi films make me facedesk every time the "you are only using 10% of your brain" logic pops up.

The other half occurs when people communicate near black holes without time dilation.

Special mention must however go to those who get evolution plain wrong. At this point, I usually lose interest altogether - because its a prejudice of working in such a field.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Jen: it was pretty visceral wasn't it? even some of my med school colleagues couldn't stand it. didn't know you're into films like that :P

Ninja: hey anytime. feel free to ask me anything too.

Alynna: i watched the first season to completion - and i swore an oath right after the season finale to never see another episode of grey's anatomy for as long as i live. to put things into perspective, i was only a 2nd year med student at the time, and even then i knew the medicine in it was crap. i do watch house though. it's not accurate either but at least most episodes are not howlingly stupid. plus, there's this physician who writes great medical reviews on each episode so even laypeople can understand what's realistic and what isn't within the series.

Rewarp: anyone who knew someone who had a stroke before - even a very minor one - knows how little reserves the human brain has, but the '10% of your brain' nonsense doesn't really annoy me. i just find it funny. and come on, are you telling me you didn't like evolution; the one which starred david duchovny?

Anonymous said...

Adrenaline (or epinephrine if you're stateside) is not a drug, its a hormone

k0k s3n w4i said...

Anonymous: it is also a drug.