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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American Idol: Changes, but not really

Last night the Top 7 performed on “American Idol” and while some changes were made, nothing really changed in the end. Last week, you’ll remember that Adam Lambert was in the pimp spot, but didn’t perform until after 9pm ET, with the show running almost 10 minutes late. So those who set their DVRs missed his performance, though with Adam being a favorite, the votes were not affected at all. Still, something needed to give and they decided that this week, the judges would have to scale back their comments….meaning, after each performance only two judges would comment instead of all four. Considering that there would be one less performance this week anyway, that should help shorten the program, right? Well, not really. Not when the judges see it as a chance to banter on incessantly, and not while Ryan Seacrest can’t keep things moving along properly, and not when they book more commercial spots than necessary. Actually read that last part back, because I am quite sure that’s your real culprit in all this.

But anyway, superstar director Quentin Tarantino was the mentor this week, a guy who makes movies but has a passion for music and a knack for marrying songs with his films. And the theme was songs from movies. Easy enough, right? Well yeah, but Bryan Adams’ two sappiest songs reared their collective ugly head.

Here is how it went down:

THE GOOD

Allison Iraheta went first and sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.” It wasn’t her best, but when she kicked into the second half of the song, holy crap. Paula and Simon both draped her with praise. Paula said that while she knows she champions Adam every week (that’s an understatement), Allison is remarkably talented as well, and Simon said that Allison is the girls’ only hope left, and that she is getting stronger every week and believing in herself.

Anoop Desai sang the first of the Bryan Adams’ sap-fest with “Everything I Do (I Do For You)” and he did a really nice job with it. Honestly, I loathe that song the way Newman from “Seinfeld” loathes Keith Hernandez, but Anoop played with the melody a bit and made it soulful and interesting. Randy said Anoop has found his zone, and that it was in tune and had some nice emotion, and Kara said Anoop added some nice soul to a pop song and that it was one of his best performances so far. No argument here.

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