You Don't Know Statham Like I Know Statham
You may know Statham from the explosion filled, kick ass, wham bammery of the Transporter, Crank, Expendables or Fast and Furious franchises, you may even know Statham as the merry cockney prankster from last year's Spy or his Jimmy Fallon appearances and you may remember him as the only reason people still watch early Guy Ritchie movies any more but you don't know Statham like I know Statham.
Now I am not going to claim that The Stath has the chameleon like acting chops of say a Gary Oldman but as a successor to Terrance Stamp, Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine even? yeah, I would say it.
Apart from the odd fun Edgar Wright or Ben Wheatly movie Britain doesn't really have a film industry except for costume dramas, foppy rom-coms and the odd oscar-bait holocaust drama. Jason Statham, however, in between nutting heads and snapping legs in bigger budget stuff in the U.S., has attempted to use what star power he has to get the kind of movies made that Britain used to churn out in the 70s and 80s and nobody ever gives him credit for it.
In the following four films Jason Statham doesn't just show that he can do the action but he also shows us that he can carry a film that's based on dialogue, plot, his character and his screen presence.
The Bank Job - 2008
Blitz - 2011
Killer Elite - 2011
Redemption - 2013
He's also currently working on a TV series follow-up to Layer Cake called Viva La Madness.
No matter how many designer shirts he gets to flounce around in for GQ photo features, it seems that Statham's roots are never far his mind.
If you have even a passing interest in The Stath or movies in general then you owe it to yourself to give the 4 films listed above a look, or indeed, another look. Were any of them in danger of winning a best picture Oscar? no, of course not, the Oscars, for one, are mainly bollocks and two none of the above films are GREAT movies but they all prove that there is more to our boy Jason than the usual and conventional wisdom would have you believe.
In Killer Elite, one of my favourites, he plays opposite Robert De Niro and Clive Owen, both giving their best performances in a while. I like to think of this as a spiritual successor to Ronin.
In Blitz he stars opposite the renowned Paddy Considine, also no slouch in the acting dept. and apart from a brief moment with some local thugs at the beginning, there's no action in that film at all.
In Redemption (AKA Hummingbird) The Stath gives his most broken, beautiful and emotional performance yet. It's up there, for me, with Mona Lisa, the Bob Hoskins film. It's even more affecting because you just don't expect him to go as far as he does. It's an inspired piece of casting on the part of Steven Knight as JS has the baring and body of a dedicated soldier but also has the vulnerability needed for when he breaks. Not many could pull it off as authentically as our Stath,
Action stars will always be pigeonholed and even looked down upon by Hollywood and critics. Despite all the insanely strenuous effort they put their bodies through. People applaud Matt Damon's fighting and physicality in the Bourne films but that's because he's considered a "serious actor" in a "spy thriller" franchise but we action fans know the truth. What about when a comedian "plays it straight"? Oh give them all the Oscars and back up the money truck to their front door. But an action star does a serious film? and it largely goes unnoticed.
Jason Statham drove a faulty truck into a river, swam to the surface, dried himself off and said "shall we go again?" Then when asked about the incident, that happened on the set of Expendables 3, he was typically humble and didn't make a big fuss of it. Class. Pure class.
He was in good company in The Expendables with Sly Stallone. Stallone is a guy who can empathise. Oscar winning screenwriter, creator of some of the most iconic film characters of all time, has had successful franchises in multiple decades, a tremendous actor, has damn near killed himself for movie stunts and the enjoyment of the audience and all anyone thinks is that he's a dummy with a weird voice.
Well I see you Stath! I see you trying different stuff, trying to work with good, exciting people, keeping your foot in the British film industry, standing up for stunt performers, pushing yourself and always looking for the next difficult step to take. Keep it up!