The Good, The Bad and The Badass: Jason Statham
Jason Statham is an unabashed throwback to an earlier kind of action star. Cut from the same cloth as guys like Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris, but sporting a rough and tumble English accent that differentiates him from the pack, Statham's built himself a solid career as the star of action programmers. He's come ablong way from the days when he played second fiddle to Ice Cube (GHOSTS OF MARS) and Jet Li (THE ONE). He's a cool guy and effortlessly charismatic yet, despite his best efforts, true super-stardom has so far eluded him. He never got a real A-level action showcase (DEATH RACE probably came the closest as far as budgets go), and his appearances in legit tent-pole movies like THE ITALIAN JOB (remake), THE EXPENDABLES franchise and now FURIOUS 7 tend to be in supporting parts. Statham's movies also have the tendency to all seem interchangeable, with only the CRANK's really sticking out from the pack.
While some of his movies may feel disposable, Statham always seems to give them his all, winning him the respect of a devoted fan base. What's especially good are his attempts to stretch, with action dramas like BLITZ, REDEMPTION and WILD CARD being more character based than his usual fare, something which bodes well for his longevity. With FURIOUS 7 playing to sold-out crowds all over the world, Statham's exposure now is at an all-time-high, and with a buzzy-comedic part in Paul Feig's SPY this summer, Statham's best days may well be ahead of him.
While he's done lots of good stuff, I'd say that so far Statham's only appeared in one legitimate classic (two if you count his cameo in COLLATERAL). That movie of course is SNATCH. Playing Turkish, Statham's arguably the lead, although guys like Vinnie Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina and Brad Pitt have all the fun. Still, Statham is the glue that holds the movie together, with Turkish seeming like the lone sane man in Guy Ritchie's crazy London underworld. It's too bad that Statham and Ritchie's follow-up, REVOLVER, was such an unfathomable mess.
Statham's actually done a few movies that haven't gotten their due. CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE was an absolutely insane experience and a kind of gonzo-trash classic. Another movie of his, REDEMPTION, was a stylish, sophisticated noir that never really got much of a push stateside. Heck, even Statham's action vehicle, SAFE, was a cut above the norm, although it lacked a strong villain for Statham to have a final mano-a-mano showdown with. But, of all Statham's movies, one of his best is THE BANK JOB, which proved that Statham didn't have to be fight legions of baddies to be effective as a lead. Roger Donaldson put together a really interesting retro thriller, and I'd love to see him and Statham try something like this again.
One of Statham's movies I never really got the love for was THE MECHANIC. A remake of an infinitely superior Charles Bronson movie, to me this film seemed like a transparent attempt by producers to launch Statham into another TRANSPORTER-style franchise, although his character never manages to be quite as memorable as Frank Martin. Director Simon West and Statham did better work in their next two movies together, THE EXPENDABLES 2 and WILD CARD.
THE TRANSPORTER's road to success was surprisingly unconventional. When it hit theaters, many knocked it as a Vin Diesel/XXX clone, but once it hit DVD it built up a strong cult-following, with the sequel arguably launching Statham's career as a leading man. While uneven (I'd argue the second is the most entertaining) THE TRANSPORTER has a few classic action sequences, the best of which is the following gem where Statham dispatches a houseful of goons.
After SPY, Statham's next flick will be MECHANIC: RESURRECTION. While that doesn't seem too promising a prospect, the addition of Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh and Tommy Lee Jones to the cast makes it sound like the sequel's going to be a cut above as far as B-actioners go. After that, Statham will hopefully be back for another FAST & FURIOUS, while he's also acquired the rights to the book-sequel to LAYER CAKE, making it sound like a return to the kind of movie that got Statham noticed in the first place.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...