A roundtable chat with screenwriter Lewis John Carlino of “The Mechanic,” (2011 and 1971)

If there’s a picture of Lewis John Carlino anywhere on the Internet, I haven’t been able to find it. Does it matter?

Unlike other notables, writers are still allowed to be a little mysterious. Indeed, other than the fact that he wrote several widely acclaimed movies, an episode of the legendary television series “Route 66,” some plays, and directed a few movies, very little information is available online about Lewis John Carlino.

The Great SantiniCarlino is probably best known as the director and writer of 1979’s “The Great Santini,” a beloved sleeper about a military family based on a novel by Pat Conroy and featuring one of Robert Duvall’s greatest and most bombastic performances. “Santini” is, however, one of the more conventional films in the Carlino cannon.

In 1966, he adapted a novel by David Ely into John Frankenheimer’s famously eccentric paranoid science-fiction thriller starring Rock Hudson, “Seconds.” Less well remembered are his non-“Santini” directorial efforts. “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea,” a bizarre and intense 1976 drama based on a book by Yukio Mishima, and “Class,” a 1983 comedy in which Jacqueline Bisset has an affair with brat-packer Andrew McCarthy, the best friend of her son (Rob Lowe). In between, Carlino also wrote the acclaimed fantasy drama, “Resurrection” starring Ellen Burstyn. After 1983, Carlino stopped directing movies entirely and his credited writing work declined dramatically.

Now a soft-spoken seventy-something intellectual, Carlino met with a group of writers to discuss a remake of one of his best known films, “The Mechanic.” The 1971 original starred Charles Bronson as a troubled but ultra-stoic hit-man who tries to end his isolation by taking on a protegee (Jan-Michael Vincent), even though his last hit was on the young man’s father (Keenan Wynn). Despite its action film trappings — including a nicely accomplished quarter-hour dialogue-free opening set-piece — it’s an often chilling look at men who have embraced death and cruelty. Bronson’s character does have a “code,” but it’s not a moral one. His aim is to embody an amoral version of existentialism that might be familiar to readers of Albert Camus’s “The Stranger.”

The new version, which stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster as the cool-blooded killer and his more hot-headed mentee, keeps enough of the original story and dialogue that Carlino is a credited screenwriter on the film. This time, around, however, Statham’s character is less vicious and the movie hits a number of more familiar action-flick beats. Viewers looking for traces of Camus will have to go elsewhere.

THE MECHANIC

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When ABC and NBC went head to head in the broadcast network battle for a “Sex and the City” clone, it was always going to be a tough call which one would survive: NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle,” based on a novel by Candace Bushnell, who wrote the original “Sex” novel, or ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia,” which was executive-produced by Darren Star, who held the same role for “Sex” on HBO. The latter series deserved it more, but in the end, it was the former that scored renewal at the end of its first season. While Season 2 of “Lipstick Jungle” started off promisingly, with Mary Tyler Moore turning up to play Brooke Shields’ mother and Charles’s death, it still ultimately suffered from the same problem which existed in its first year: you can’t readily buy into the three leads – Shields, Kim Raver, and Lindsay Price – cultivating friendships with each other. (They do at least acknowledge that the women have very different natures in both their business and personal lives.)

Shields and Price get the best plot lines, with Wendy (Shields) getting fired for making a decision that’s morally right but legally wrong, and Victory (Price) trying to stand on her own two feet, i.e. without Joe (Andrew McCarthy), despite her former publicist (Rosie Perez) trying to damage her reputation, but Nico (Raver) never fails to be in a miasma of melodrama, and since she’s never been a terribly sympathetic character to begin with, you almost root for her to fail at times. The show’s diehard fans will no doubt be sad that there will be no Season 3, but after watching “Lipstick Jungle: Season 2,” the average viewer probably won’t be terribly surprised.

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Old Show, New Season: “Lipstick Jungle”

I can’t really tell you that I was a huge fan of the first season of “Lipstick Jungle,” neither when it aired nor after it was released on DVD; I liked it well enough, but while I enjoyed the three female leads individually, I had some serious issues with the premise that they’d actually be friends. Still, when it was announced back in June that Mary Tyler Moore would be appearing in the show’s second season, playing the mother of Brooke Shields’ character, Wendy, I didn’t hesitate in deciding that I’d be interested in checking out the season premiere.

If you watched the first season of “Lipstick Jungle,” then two of the three primary storylines of the Season 2 premiere will not surprise you…well, not in general, anyway.

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