PLOT: An AWOL Royal Marine, Joey Jones (Jason Statham) hides from his pursuers on the streets of London, where he lives as a homeless junkie. After being attacked by a gang of goons, Joey takes solace in a fancy apartment, whose tenant is away for the summer. Seeing this as a fresh start, Joey is able to clean himself and starts his life over, working as muscle for the Chinese mob. When a former friend from his homeless days turns up dead, Joey tries to redeem himself by solving her murder.
REVIEW: The hastily retitled REDEMPTION (it was originally called HUMMINGBIRD, which is still the UK title) is not the generic Jason Statham vehicle it's being sold as. The directorial debut of Steven Knight, the writer of EASTERN PROMISES and DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, this is a serious, somber film, with relatively little in the way of Statham-style punch ups and action, and as such will obviously not suit all of his hardcore action-fans.
However, you have to admire Statham for occasionally trying these more serious kinds of movies, most of which he makes in the UK. THE BANK JOB was one such film, and to me that stands as his best solo-work to date, although the last time he tried a movie like this we got BLITZ, which was pretty bad.
REDEMPTION is certainly an improvement over that film, even if it's still only intermittently successful. Knight seems to be trying to make a serious film about the toll of post-traumatic stress on returning soldiers, but he throws in too many random action elements in a seemingly belated attempt to please Statham's fan base. The two or three fight scenes are so out of synch with the rest of the movie it feels like they were shoehorned in to allow the studio to market this as an action movie right down to the generic DTV-style title (HUMMINGBIRD is much more appropriate, with them figuring into Statham's big hallucinatory PTSD meltdown early in the movie).
If anything, REDEMPTION aspires to be an unconventional love story, with much more of the running time spent on Statham's burgeoning flirtation with a Polish nun (played by Agata Buzek) who's suffering through a crisis of faith. Statham's on-screen romances are usually limited to the requisite “hot chick” who's thrown into his big action movies, so it's a nice change of pace to see Statham actually play out a relationship with someone.
Other than his last Guy Ritchie film REVOLVER (which I despised) and his early indie LONDON, Statham's never really had the chance to challenge himself too much as an actor, but REDEMPTION clearly shows that for all his macho swagger, Statham has his soft side, and can be effective given the opportunity to explore that side of himself (he even gets his first-ever crying scene).
It's too bad that REDEMPTION feels as compromised as it does, as Statham's performance and the gorgeous neon cinematography by DP Chris Menges deserve better than this. The subplot about Statham working for the mob never pays off in a big way, and it's pretty much abandoned in the last half hour of the movie which focuses almost exclusively on Statham's relationship with Buzek.
Obviously, Statham fans who are expecting one of his typical action outings will be disappointed, but you have to admire him for at least trying to stretch a bit. While the movie itself may not be all that great, Statham's performance is quite good and shows that if he's given the chance there's more to him than just punch-ups and action (not that there's anything wrong with a good action flick). With the right role, Statham just might surprise us all.
|Extra Tidbit:||I'd love to see Statham work with a guy like Michael Mann (who used him briefly in COLLATERAL) or Nicolas Refn.|