There have been a surge of ridiculous man vs. animal films lately. Since 2006’s Snakes on a Plane, we have had: Dinoshark, the Sharknado series, Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD, Piranhaconda, Sharktapus, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Megapython vs Gatoroid and so on and so on and so on. It’s fair to say, this sort of thing has been done, to death.
Just when I thought, I’d grown bored of these films, articles start flying around the Internet about Meg, a forthcoming 2018 release, starring Jason Statham in fisty cuffs with a killer shark.
I’m a huge Jason Statham fan, and I don’t know why.
I studied film for years and have an appreciation for classic cinema, European films, critically acclaimed works, art house pieces, Asian horror, award winning movies and also Jason Statham. He’s completely unapologetic in all of his roles. He knows he’s making B-movies, nuts and bolts action films and nothing that requires him to turn up and be anything other than Jason Statham. Quite simply, he is brilliant at being Jason Statham.
Usually it’s in an actors twilight years that they settle into the B-movie circuit. Former huge stars churn out the “straight to DVD” or “straight to DVDesque” flicks such as:
With limited release, limited budget and limited appeal, these are the kind of film’s you’d generally see on DVD in a supermarket bargain bin for £3, six months after their release. Jason Statham has essentially built his career on these films. No matter what the genre:
Jason Statham plays Jason Statham. I’ve been a big fan of his since the early Guy Ritchie pictures, and the Stath top 10 is long overdue. Collateral gets an honorable mention as it’s a fantastic thriller directed by Michael Mann. However, Stath’s role wasn’t substantial enough for me to class it as a ‘Jason Statham’ movie. I’ve taken into account sequels and trilogies and for a bit of variety I’ve lumped all franchises into one place on the list……. I say variety……
10. Death Race (2008)
The Stath’s appeared in numerous remakes over the years. The Italian Job (2003), The Pink Panther (2006) and Mean Machine (2001), a remake of 1974’s The Longest Yard. For me, by far his finest remake is 2008’s Death Race. Based on the original film Death Race 2000 from 1975, the Stath is forced to adopt the role of the mythical driver Frankenstein. General racing and death occurs. Whereas it’s nowhere near as seminal as the original in terms of film history, it’s a perfectly enjoyable hour and 45 minutes from director Paul W.S.Anderson. Not to be confused with Oscar nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson.
P.T Anderson = There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights
P.W.S. Anderson = Mortal Kombat, AVP: Alien vs Predator, Resident Evil: Retribution
If you want awards heavy modern masterpieces, P.T.A. If you want CGI heavy schlock, P.W.S.A. Both fine directors in their chosen fields.
9. Hummingbird (2013)
Or Redemption as it’s known in some territories, including the U.S. That’s when you know you’ve got a B-Movie on your hands. Repackaged with a different title, superb. It’ll probably be re-released with another different title in 10 years time, when one of the bit-part actors featured has sprung to stardom, with his or her face on the cover. Nevertheless, it’s a cracking little B-Movie. Jason Statham plays a drunk, homeless ex forces veteran who steals the identity of a high end photographer and poses as his boyfriend whilst squatting in his flat. He befriends a nun whilst gradually working his way up as a member of the Triads. He then exploits his position with the Chinese mafia to avenge the murder of his homeless friend Isabel. Now THAT is a B-Movie.
8. The Expendables Series (2010 – 2014)
The “let’s get the band back together” action medley featuring an ensemble of former “biggest action stars in the world”, mixed with today’s ‘ard men. The first film was surprisingly a huge box office success, bringing in nearly 300 hundred million on a modest budget, and spawning two sequels. It’s a sort of more explodey, shooty version of The A-Team where the cast mutually back slap each other, are self referential about their careers and talk about how old they now are. All of the films are extremely watchable, and almost force you to have upwards of seven beers per viewing.
7. Blitz (2011)
Not as “full throttle” as some of Statham’s similar work and sits more comfortably in the ‘thriller’ half of the Venn diagram as apposed to ‘action’. Blitz has heavier elements of intrigue and drama and is slightly darker in tone. The Stath plays a “hard as nails” copper who is in pursuit of a serial killer targeting police officers. As well as a (literally) solid lead performance from JS, the film really benefits from an absolutely stellar supporting cast featuring Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, David Morrissey and Mark Rylance. Arguably the most accomplished supporting cast that Statham has ever worked with.
6. Revolver (2005)
Definitely the most diverse film on the list. Revolver seemed to completely divide critics and audiences upon release. A more or less unanimous panning of the film by critics lead to it bombing at the box office, and since then it hasn’t really picked up too much momentum on TV or DVD. I remember seeing it when it was first released in cinemas back in 2005. Granted I was only 18 at the time and slightly naive in the area of film criticism, but I loved it. Upon repeat viewings, in my later years, I’ve gradually picked up on many of the criticisms. For example, the unnecessarily overly complex / pretentious themes, plots and motifs, written by someone who appears completely ill-educated on the subject he’s discussing. Regardless, I do like the film, and I particularly like Jason Statham in it. If you can remove yourself (like I can) from the convoluted waffle that weighs it down, you’ll find some great performances, fabulous cinematography with incredibly innovative uses of colour palettes and an alluring original score.
12 years later and it seems that the initial scathing, venomous feelings towards the film have died down slightly. Still not quite hitting the mark with critics, Revolver currently holds an average user rating of 6.5/10 on IMDB and 3.3/5 on Rotten Tomatoes, so you can’t say fairer than that. I’ve never really considered Revolver to be a cult film until writing this post. But with its jaded history, its limited appeal and its uniqueness, it ticks all the boxes for me.
5. Crank (2006) / Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Crank is like Speed except the bus is Jason Statham. In order to stay alive he must keep his adrenaline constantly flowing. He does this by taking drugs, getting into fights and indulging in mass amounts of aggressive rumpy pumpy with his missus. The Cranks are completely shameless in their exploitative nature, and similarly to Statham’s character are filmed in a furious kind of manner. The direction and editing reminded me of a 2002 film called Spun, about a speed-freak on a drugs binge. The whole thing has almost punk film-making aesthetics, and is like a thrash metal music video that got out of hand.
4. The Bank Job (2008)
A period piece set in 1970’s London is based on the true story of the Baker Street robbery of 1971. As opposed to Statham’s collaboration’s with Guy Ritchie, The Bank Job is more of a throwback to the classic British crime films of the 60’s / 70’s. In terms of the heist element of narrative the obvious comparison would be the original Italian Job. With precise attention to period detail, a fascinating insight into the actual events of the Baker Street robbery and a captivating cast, the film was a critical and commercial success.
3. The Transporter Series (2002 – 2009)
The French action series written and produced by Luc Besson helped catapult the Stath to B-List stardom. Quite remarkably successful, the series is still going strong, with a 4th addition to the film franchise released in 2015, and a spin off TV series that has been running since 2012. I first saw The Transporter shortly after it’s VHS release. I remember the tag line being: “The film xXx wishes it was”. Referring to the Vin Diesel action film released the same year. Despite The Transporter having less than half the budget of xXx it is definitely the superior work. It’s slicker, the action sequences are meatier, it’s funnier, it has a better story and Jason Statham plays a much better character and is a much more engaging on screen presence. Both his subsequent two films are very enjoyable, if not slightly ludicrous, and the underlying homoerotic nature of the films is to be applauded. Throughout the trilogy we see him shirtless, greased up in oil whilst grappling with other butch men and by the third film he is literally forced to perform an on screen striptease. And why not? Superb.
2. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Guy Ritchie’s first feature length film and Jason Statham’s first acting role was the vehicle that propelled them both into stardom. Jason’s street vending monologue opens the film and sets the tone brilliantly. Ritchie’s choppy direction, pop soundtrack and ability to merge memorable dialogue with comedy and violence set his up as the U.K.’s answer to Tarantino. Alongside Snatch and RocknRolla, Lock Stock is the pièce de résistance in Guy’s trilogy of “guns and geezers” movies.
1. Snatch. (2000)
Of the two, and despite their blatant similarities, I’ve generally favoured Lock Stock as a film. However, as this blog post is about Jason Statham films, Snatch is without doubt the superior Statham performance. Promoted from his role in Lock Stock as part of the large ensemble cast, Statham leads the pack in Snatch. and holds his own against Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina.