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Face-Off: Jason Statham vs. The Rock

01.24.2013by: Paul Huffman
Inlast weeks Face-Off, we covered the theme of search-and-destroy war films in a match up between Oscar contender Zero Dark Thirty and Francis Ford Coppola classic Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now took the final verdict, and when our readers chimed in with their votes they echoed that opinion by a landslide.

For this week, we're in that action hero mode and given the upcoming release of Parker we've decided on a match between the films star Jason Statham and another man who can "rock" it when he steps into the action role in Dwayne Johnson. Both have that undeniable presence when they are at their best, and both have had genuinely entertaining roles. I've had a blast with both these guys and will watch anything that either of them are in, and I'm actually at a loss for who I think is better right now. Let's discuss anyway.
Roles
Perhaps best known for his franchise roles with the Transporter, Crank, and recently the Expendables films...I admire Statham mostly for his start. Jason came right out of the gate with two great films in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Another one of my favorite Statham role is his turn in beginning these new slew of Death Race films, a genuinely entertaining performance from him and an entertaining film. He's kept us entertained with his recent work like The Mechanic, Blitz, Killer Elite and Safe. Keep bringing it Jason.
The Rock hit the scene with what was essentially a cameo in The Mummy Returns, but in that opening scene alone he showed his promise and his charisma. From there he gave us one of the best action comedies of all time with the Rundown, an intense performance in Walking Tall and an interesting choice in Doom. After years of comedies and family films, some entertaining, some not he returned with action with Faster and Fast Five (where he played a complete bad ass). He has the upcoming G.I Joe Retaliation which looks like an improved version of the first film and Pain & Gain. Rock has a penchant for not turning his back on the family films, but when he brings it he brings it and he will always be welcome as an action hero.
Combat Skills
Jason Statham was trained in Martial Arts by Corey Yuen (who trained in the same school as Jackie Chan). He has mostly been influenced mostly by kickboxing, Win Chun, and Karate. I am pleased to say, that training has shown in his films and has been entertaining the hell out of me for years. The man is just out of control, a great contrast to action icons with subdued styles like that of Steven Segal. The edge has to be given to Statham for his years of dedication to these studies that have resulted in the genuine article.
My favorite fight scenes from The Rock I would have to say came out of Walking Tall, just something about what he did in that film was all kinds of awesome. He had great if not over the top action scenes to work with in the Rundown (including a modified version of his wrestling finisher Rock Bottom) and he had his shining Fast Five moment in his powerhouse battle with Vin Diesel. I can't wait to see if he brings more of the badassery to Pain & Gain and Fast Six. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is no martial arts master...but he's got it where it counts when he sees fit to show us.
Acting Chops
These days, it seems we get the typical Jason Statham performance you walk in knowing what you're getting...but he does that because it works. His charisma can't be denied and there is more there then we give him credit for methinks. I'd like to share a snippet of a review by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone for the film Safe, "Between the fists, kicks, bullets, car chases and broken trachea, the movie could have milked the sentiment of that relationship until you puked. But Statham and the scrappy Chan play it hard. The restraint becomes them. Statham is still playing it safe in Safe, but vulnerability is showing through the cracks." That last bit sums up my feelings towards Statham, there is more there waiting to bubble to the surface...hopefully one day we get to see it just attack us.
The Rock's nickname in professional wrestling was the most electrifying man...he carried that over into his acting career no doubt. He showed the right amount of menace in Scorpion King and the recent Fast Five, the brilliant comedic timing we knew he was capable of in The Rundown, and even touching dramatic moments in films like Gridiron Gang and one scene in The Game Plan that sort of got to me (yes, The Game Plan). The Rock is sort of the complete package that is why I wish he would do more action films that could showcase BOTH those talents. Give the man a shot at another revenge flick that pulls out all the stops.
Overall
Jason Statham has been a mainstay in the action genre since 98 and has been going strong since. He has had some misses as far as material goes, but who doesn't? He always brings exactly what we expect from him...that being amazing martial arts madness, an aura of being a pure badass, and the promise of his best work having not even hit us yet. When I think of the action films that appeal more to my sensibility in terms of the stories they present, I think of the action brought forth by Jason Statham. Statham has less blockbusters, but his fans know he's kept the genre alive.
I have been a huge pro wrestling fan for 17 years, The Rock being one of my favorite performers. When his film career got rolling I was all for it, I marked out like crazy when he hit the screen in Mummy Returns. He showed great promise as the next great action hero, but strayed away from that for a while for family oriented films. Something I can't count him out for because I've enjoyed a few of those shamelessly. He shows signs of going back to those action roles in the future and I personally can't wait for more from Dwayne Johnson, he's not the end all be all of action heroes we thought he might become...but he's a reliable option.
Jason Statham
There it goes folks, I feel like Jason Statham deserves the win here for one reason that I find important. While not a world renowned superstar like The Rock is, in staying with the action genre he's managed to stay a relevant recognized star who hasn't been doomed to the straight to DVD shelves. He doesn't have as many blockbuster action films to his name, but he's just as charismatic as The Rock is in my eyes. So where do you lot stand? Let us know.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which action star is your favorite?
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