Some random quotes from the imdb thread entitled “How does Jason Statham keep getting work?:
“Seriously, he’s awful, he’s in my raccoon wounds.”
“Terrible actor. Worst ever? You bet.”’
“His films are works of pure garbage.”
“My husband watches his movies over and over again. I can’t stand him. He’s worse than the chick flicks my friends watch. Both make me cringe in my seat.”
“He might as well change his name to Running Explosion Man.”
“He’s filling the void left open by Arnold Schwarzenegger, JCVD, Seagal, Wesley Snipes, etc who are too old to be going around kicking ass and telling bad jokes… It’s up to the Stath to keep the flame alive and he’s arguably doing a better job than most of the aforementioned.”
There were 50 other comments along the lines of “Because he’s hot and has a great body” and an even larger number of “He plays the same character in every movie! Where is his range?” entries, but they didn’t help what I am about to write so I ignored them…
I am here to say that Jason Statham is perhaps the most reliable regularly actor working in Hollywood today, and I mean that from the film companies’ perspective and the viewing public’s.
In fact the last 2 comments inadvertently sum up my argument, as Running Explosion Man is keeping the fickle and fragile action film movement alive.
Where are the torch-bearers for our young males (18 – 39)? Who else is making films today for guys on the couch with a leg over the arm of the chair, a bag of chips in their lap and a can of coke/beer in the hand not holding the greasy chip-stained remote?
In the 80’s it was Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Arnie. In the 90’s it was still Arnie and Sly, although now with Bruce Willis and we all caught a brief and unfortunate case of the Steven Seagals… some got it worse than others and it festered into a case of Jeff Speakman. Even Van Damme was a spotty but generally reliable option for the pimple faced, beer-gutted video renter.
Now what have the 00s given us? Vin Diesel? Hugh Jackman? Various WWE guys whose names I can’t remember and whose films I will never see? The Rock (The ex-WWE guy with real potential and charisma, but he seems to fear his destiny!)?
Perhaps the most arse-kickingest efforts in the last decade were from pimply teens themselves (Kick-Ass), costume wearing rich guys (Batman, Iron Man) and skirt wearing little girls (Kick-Ass again!). To cap it off the highest body count of the decade went to *GASP* another female – The Bride in Kill Bill 1&2.
Hang your head in shame ‘action heroes’.
There was once a time when you could show a guy running around killing everyone in sight and blowing up the background and not have to apologise for it. However in this ridiculous PC world where on the same news webpage rape and sexism are vilified on one side and skimpy slutty photos of moronic starlets are glorified on the other you can’t kill anyone without a good reason – even in escapist entertainment, lest some dickhead get the wrong idea… but Hostel and Saw are fine for 13 year olds.
(By the way the good reason used to be “They were in my way”, over the last decade it has morphed into “Their skin colour is different and they talk different to us Ah-Merrickens!”.)
Jason Statham is a throwback to that better time in cinema where they didn’t bother trying to teach us lessons or justify the goings on, they simply handed Statham a gun, pointed him in the direction of the bad guys and cut him loose.
The bad guys were bad and plentiful, the good guys were fewer in number – and occasionally one turned out to be a bad guy anyway. It’s the same with video games, the most annoying games are the shoot-em-ups where a random innocent walks in your line of fire as you blast away, you don’t wanna get shot? Don’t show up.
Same with a Statham movie, you sign on and he’s either going to shoot you, blow you up, or use you for sex…
Which brings me to my main point in defence of Statham: He is not an actor, he is a product.
Advertisers for well known brands often utilise simple name recognition to ensure that their product remains front of mind. They suggest ‘look you know what it is, you know you like it, how about you go and buy some now?’.
Same with Statham, his balding, poker faced bonce on the poster means bullets, explosions, a sweaty shirtless torso and just possibly some dialogue (it’s optional). No-one goes to the cinema to see Jason Statham act.
He doesn’t do accents and won’t try jokes. Dancing? Nope. Singing? The man hardly talks!
Stretching for him means playing a character who wears a hat. Prepping for a role means hitting the gym. Learning his lines means buying some coloured post-its… and using about 6 per film.
A Statham movie will run 82 – 115 minutes (I checked it out after I wrote that and I was pretty close to the mark, The Transporter and Crank films all end up in the 80s and early 90s, and the smaller Statham’s role generally the longer the film eg: The Italian Job and Lock, Stock both top the 107 minute mark. The exception is the Uwe Boll dross that he showed up in – I don’t count Uwe Boll films) and people will die in them (I’ll have to revisit The Italian Job to confirm that). Aside from Guy Ritchie films Mr Statham will have only a few more lines that a postbox, and unlike the postbox will probably take his shirt off on at least one occasion for the women to gasp at – before glancing at their partner with visible regret – and for the guys to acknowledge – before glancing down with visible regret.
As a guy this all means value for money, your twenty odd bucks means a night out, some action, meaningless violence, a car chase or two and hopefully a similar number of enhanced bare boobies.
I have never gone to a Statham movie for the plot. I allowed myself to get a little worked up for his two films with Jet Li, but now with the benefit of hindsight I realise this was a mistake.
Statham works best alone, he needs no-one to talk to as he generally doesn’t talk much. Bless Jet Li but as good as he is onscreen it is painful to hear him speak, this combined with Statham’s lip motion-free mumblings is too much to bear. Statham uses his weapons and fists to do his talking for him, and it is here that his work is worthy of Shakespeare.
But even in action Statham doesn’t do the flashy stuff of say Wesley Snipes in the Blade films, his hook is in his efficiency and effectiveness. Why waste three quick punches when one will knock out a guy? Why do thirteen consecutive roundhouse kicks when one will do? After all there are four other guys lining up waiting for their turn to bite the concrete. Even with a gun Statham is like an experienced gamer playing Doom. Strafe, strafe shoot. Turn the corner shoot. Forward, left, shoot. Minimal effort for maximum results.
It is this very efficiency and predictability that brings comfort for us guys 18 – 39, which is why we are the suckers lined up each time he releases a film, often without even seeing the trailer.
The best example is his latest film: “Mr Statham I don’t know what your film is about, but I do know you aren’t a Mechanic!”
In these expensive days many filmgoers don’t want to shill twenty clams to see someone experiment or try new things, we wait until the DVD is released to experiment because it’s cheaper (exactly the reason one of the best films in 2010 Scott Pilgrim Vs the World died at the box office), we want reliability and advance knowledge that we can tick off the action bingo boxes of blood, violence, skin and action before the lights go down and the 137 previews start!
Statham brings just that. He is the warm but tattered blanket that you cover your legs with in winter on the couch, the T shirt you should have thrown out 5 years ago, the ruined shoes that you would never wear but keep because of the awesome concert that you attended when you last wore them.
It’s the same reason women go to every rom-com with Witherspoon, Kutcher, Kate Hudson and Drew Barrymore. They all suck but they provide the known quantity.
In fact Statham’s best marketing idea from here might just be eschewing all marketing and promotion and calling every film STATHAM.
It might not be a critical hit but when did he last get nominated for anything anyway? It might not endear him to people who haven’t seen his films but they don’t buy tickets anyway.
It might not provide much info for the punters but as I’ve already pointed out we go and watch anyway. (The biggest query might be “Is this the one where he wears a hat? I’m not sure I like him taking chances with his roles!”)
Statham is as Statham does.
Jason Statham is perhaps the most transparent actor working today, a trademark that guarantees results that are neither too high nor too low. Actors who take chances must occasionally fuck up, and unless you are a 10 year vet with bona fide box-office success behind you (aloha Nicolas Cage!) that can end your career. “True cinema afficianados might ask themselves how much damage Messrs Pacino and De Niro have done to their respective legacies in the last decade playing *VOMIT* “the comedic foils”.
By never taking a risk Mr Statham bypasses that peril, it is because of that fact that he always has a steady stream of projects lined up, and a steady stream of punters lined up for tix. Until he loses the plot and appears as a wacky cross dresser or sells out to be the latest tough guy playing against type in a kid’s movie I will remain one of them.
Carry on Mr S…