Jason Statham

Transporter 3 (2008, Olivier Megaton)

When an action movie franchise hits the third one (X-Men, Lethal Weapon), they generally know what they’re doing and who they’re making the movie for and instead of producing some wonted exercise, members of this illustrious group of sequels are assured, affable and a lot of fun. The Transporter series is a constant disappointment, since it puts Jason Statham’s likability above his acting ability–so it’s a real surprise to see it join that group.

The film opens with him and sidekick François Berléand fishing together (it’s one of those almost meta moments in fiction, like the Star Trek trio camping) and, even with the lousy editing, it’s lovely. Olivier Megaton’s got some good composition and he can handle a conversation, but the editing is just atrocious–lots of speeding up and slowing down–the fight scenes with Statham are boring. In some ways, it’s a terrible use of Panavision.

Luc Besson, co-writing again, finally gets to put his romance angle in one of the Transporter entries significantly, with love interest Natalya Rudakova. Like most of Besson’s love interests, the age difference between her and her lover is questionable (though not as much as The Professional). But Rudakova turns out to be a real find. She plays the role like an established Russian actress doing her first English language role and she’s not. It’s her first (and, unfortunately, only) film.

Berléand’s great as always, Jeroen Krabbé’s cashing a paycheck, Robert Knepper isn’t a terrible villain.

It’s good stuff.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Olivier Megaton; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci; edited by Camille Delamarre and Carlo Rizzo; music by Alexandre Azari; production designer, Patrick Durand; produced by Besson and Steve Chasman; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Natalya Rudakova (Valentina), François Berléand (Inspector Tarconi), Robert Knepper (Johnson), Jeroen Krabbé (Leonid Vasilev) and Timo Dierkes (Otto).


Death Race (2008, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Death Race opens with an almost too classy intro text (reminiscent of Escape from New York, intentionally I’m sure) informing the viewer in 2012, the U.S. economy collapses. Death Race opened in August 2008… is Paul W.S. Anderson now a seer? With all-powerful, insulated corporations and cops beating protesters… it’s the perfect movie for this year. It’s just too bad they were using rubber bullets instead of Tasers, so I guess Anderson isn’t always spot-on in his fortune telling.

All joking aside, Death Race has to be Anderson’s best film. He manages to fully embrace his own mediocrity, but here he infuses it with a more capable cast than usual and his action scenes are good. They aren’t exciting, but they’re masterfully executed, which is more than enough to engage the viewer. It’s the only time I’ve ever thought of Anderson in the same vein as Carpenter–but whereas Carpenter was inventive, Anderson’s simply a competent recycler of other people’s better ideas.

There isn’t a single interesting thing Anderson does in Death Race, except maybe go soft for his ending. But it’s slick and well-produced.

The key is Jason Statham. Statham can make Anderson’s dialogue sound good. There are other good performances in the movie, but only Statham’s delivery rises above the material. The secret to Statham’s solid performance–as usual for him–is his ability to appear to be an intelligent actor but never condescend the material. The more respectable actors in the cast–Joan Allen and Ian McShane–are both aware of Death Race‘s artistic import (specifically, its lack thereof). Allen seems to be slumming for fun and has a great time, while McShane is miscast. While he’s fine, he doesn’t embrace the movie’s absurdity. He isn’t having fun and all Death Race is about is fun.

Another solid performance comes from Tyrese Gibson. I’ve never seen him in anything before–wait, I guess he was in Transformers but didn’t make an impression; his performance is strong. He’s a likable antagonist. He doesn’t manage to escape all of Anderson’s lousy dialogue–in some ways, he has the worst of it–but his good moments far exceed his bad. Anderson always ends Gibson’s scenes with some exit line and the exit lines are always terrible. Some of them even look like they were added in post-production, which is unfortunate.

Death Race actually comes close–during the racing scenes, where Anderson is running a pure filmic adrenaline line–to being a good movie. Because these are the best scenes and are unrelated to the larger story, it’s obviously not going to work out. But they’re good enough to convince some magic might occur. After all, he did see the future of the economy. The ending disappoints in some ways–despite handling Allen so well, he objectifies Natalie Martinez (after spending the whole movie not treating her in that manner). I forgot about Martinez above; she’s okay, some bad scenes, some good… but better than expected. Just like the rest of the movie.

Wait, I’m wrong. Anderson does do something really interesting with Death Race. He implies Gibson’s character is gay. One scene gives Gibson the opportunity to deny it and he doesn’t. It’s a bold move for a b-movie pseudo-blockbuster….

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay and screen story by Anderson, based on a screenplay by Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith and a story by Ib Melchior; director of photography, Scott Kevan; edited by Niven Howie; music by Paul Haslinger; production designer, Paul D. Austerberry; produced by Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Roger Corman and Paula Wagner; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jason Statham (Jensen Ames), Joan Allen (Hennessey), Ian McShane (Coach), Tyrese Gibson (Machine Gun Joe Mason), Natalie Martinez (Elizabeth Case), Max Ryan (Pachenko), Jacob Vargas (Gunner), Jason Clarke (Ulrich), Frederick Koehler (Lists), Justin Mader (Travis Colt), Robert LaSardo (Grimm) and Robin Shou (14K).


London (2005, Hunter Richards)

Movies with lots of conversation–made up primarily of conversation–used to be rare. Then came Reservoir Dogs and Clerks. While Tarantino and Smith can still make it work, the world now has to suffer through films like London, which appears to be ninety-two minutes of bad dialogue. It’s obvious the dialogue’s going to be terrible from the opening scene, when Chris Evans has a phone conversation. Only his half of the conversation is audible, but it’s clear auteur Hunter Richards didn’t write up the other side, much less have someone talking to Evans.

The direction is obnoxious. Fast forward editing, lots of jump cuts. The direction of the actors isn’t much better. I mean, Jessica Biel’s performance is shockingly bad, which isn’t indicative of Richards’s abilities. But he manages to get a charisma-free performance out of Jason Statham, which–previously–I would have said was impossible (I’m ignoring Crank to make the point). Evans is blah. His character is supposed to be unemotional and distant and the baseball cap doesn’t help.

Long-time casting director Bonnie Timmermann is one of London‘s many producers (most of the others either have no previous credits or direct-to-video nonsense) and I’m assuming she had a lot to do with it getting made. In the late 1990s, when people made these kinds of knockoffs, they were low budget and somewhat–from the production sense–interesting. London is likely low budget, but it’s glossy and visually incompetent, not interesting.

I should be mad at myself for even trying to watch it… but I really thought it was about a bunch of Americans living in London and that sounded, if not good, at least passable. But this intolerable drivel… I mean, Richards is so bad, I’m surprised he isn’t popular.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Hunter Richards; director of photography, Jo Willems; edited by Tracey Wadmore-Smith; music by The Crystal Method; production designer, Erin Smith; produced by Ash Shah, Paul Davis Miller and Bonnie Timmerman; released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Chris Evans (Syd), Jessica Biel (London), Jason Statham (Bateman), Isla Fisher (Rebecca), Joy Bryant (Mallory), Kelli Garner (Maya) and Dane Cook (George).


Crank (2006, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor)

I don’t usually see films released by Lionsgate. I wouldn’t say I boycotted them, but I don’t take them seriously enough to bother. I started watching Crank because the trailer looked amusing and I do like Jason Statham, whose career goal is apparently never to be in a film funded by a major film company. Statham’s a reasonable enough actor and he’s a good action star. Except Crank is actually the worst made film I can remember seeing. It beats everything in terms of incompetence. But I guess it really isn’t incompetence, because if the filmmakers intended to make a video game into a movie (something David Fincher once said he was trying to do, I think about Fight Club), they’ve sort of succeeded. It’s just an incomprehensible video game.

Crank opens with the title in old video game–arcade days–font, then moves into Statham’s point of view for a few minutes while it establishes its story. This film uses Google Maps (with the Google Maps tag onscreen) as a story-telling device. It has multiple frames on screen at once, but then attaches these frames as textures to walls in other frames. It’s incoherent and stupid. Every third word is a expletive, not for any good reason, but because the writing is so laughable.

Also, it’s not exciting. Jason Statham drives around a lot and yells at people on his cell phone (which gets really good reception). I know the guy’s inevitably going to die–it’s part of the agreement for watching the film–but if you want him to die, well, it doesn’t quite work… shock of shocks.

Unfortunately, Crank didn’t totally tank at the box office and it’s doing well on video (which signals the end days more than a nuclear holocaust would), so it’s possible the morons who made it will make some more films. But they’ve really achieved something with Crank–it’s probably the most worthless action movie I can think of.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor; director of photography, Adam Biddle; edited by Brian Berdan; music by Paul Haslinger; production designer, Jerry Fleming; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard S. Wright, Skip Williamson and Michael Davis; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Jason Statham (Chev Chelios), Amy Smart (Eve), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Verona), Efren Ramirez (Kaylo), Dwight Yoakam (Doc Miles), Carlos Sanz (Carlito), Jay Xcala (Alex) and Keone Young (Don Kim).


Transporter 2 (2005, Louis Leterrier)

This film is actually dedicated to someone’s memory. Sort of offensive, isn’t it? Dedicating a crappy movie to someone’s memory? Peter Jackson dedicated King Kong to Fay Wray’s memory and there’s certainly some evidence she wouldn’t have wanted the honor (Wray didn’t like the idea of Kong being remade and turned Jackson down during his first attempt, in 1997 or whatever). It’s something to think about, I suppose.

There isn’t anything to think about in Transporter 2. I watched the first one, which I think is probably better–if only because François Berléand’s detective has more to do–and didn’t even bother writing it up. For some reason, the second one offends me. The first one wasn’t any good, but it didn’t offend. This one is somehow offensively worse. Maybe because all the acting so bad. Besides Jason Statham and Berléand, the best performance is from former supermodel Amber Valletta (who looks the right age to play Matthew Modine’s wife in the film, even if he’s fifteen years older than her). She’s not good, either. She’s just surprisingly not awful. The supermodel in the film–Kate Nauta–is possibly the worst actress I have ever seen… she’s actually that bad.

She’s so bad I used ‘that’ like I just did.

Maybe I was in a more giving mood last time, but Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen are awful writers. Besson’s written some crap, but not of this magnitude before–instead of directing films, he just writes them now and I’ve seen a couple others and they aren’t this bad. I can just blame in all on Kamen, who is–historically–unbearably bad. Just awful.

Statham’s still appealing and I’m perplexed he can’t catch on. Maybe he’s just been in so many bad movies he can’t get a real job. More likely he makes enough money from these turds he doesn’t want to get a real job. It’s too bad, because I don’t think I can sit through another one of these….

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Christine Lucas-Navarro and Vincent Tabaillon; music by Alexandre Azaria; production designer, John Mark Harrington; produced by Besson and Steven Chasman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Alessandro Gassman (Gianni), Amber Valletta (Audrey Billings), Kate Nauta (Lola), Matthew Modine (Mr. Billings), Jason Flemyng (Dimitri), François Berléand (Tarconi), Keith David (Stappleton), Hunter Clary (Jack Billings), and Shannon Briggs (Max).


Scroll to Top