Perhaps the only action star this generation has is Jason Statham. Sure, there are others like Dwayne Johnson and other actors who are growing into action stars, but none have quite the action credibility that Statham has. With three franchises under his belt (Transporter, Crank , and The Expendables), Statham has turned into America’s most consistent and prominent action star, despite most of his films not being huge successes at the box office. Personally, Statham is better than most of the action stars of the 80’s like Sly and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
That seems like a bold statement, but just hear me out here. Statham, unlike those other action stars, is actually a pretty good actor, while most of the former action stars got by on their presence. Also, Statham is rather willing to test himself with different roles, unlike most who just play it safe once a niche is found. From a bat-shit crazy turn in Crank to a fun spin on the Tybalt character in Gnomeo and Juliet, Statham has done many different roles showing his versatility as an actor. While most of Statham’s regular action fare comes off as very routine, Statham is at his best when he is outside of his wheelhouse. His latest attempt at something new is the neo-noir film Redemption, which sadly doesn’t work as well as it should.
Redemption follows Joesph Smith, an ex-Marine who is looking for revenge for a fallen friend and finds his redemption in the tough streets of London.
Jason Statham here is at his best. In a career of mostly solid acting, Statham gives a career best performance here. Trying to capture that quiet, Drive-like protagonist, Statham really nails it, giving the right amount of sophistication and balance to overall create a great character. Statham’s Joesph is similar to his Transporter-type action star, but in a far more realistic realm, with his quiet nature being contributed by his dark past.
This film is beautifully shot. Long time cinematographer Chris Menges gives some of his best work here. Menges perfectly captures the grimy London cities, shooting them in such a romantic way that makes the grime look beautiful. Not only the cinematography, but the general ascetics such as score and editing are great as well.
Redemption, unlike most action efforts, really aims high, which is rare to see. The film has many great ideas and messages, but that is where the problems start for this film.
While Redemption seems to have a lot to say, the movie fails to properly develop these concepts to make them work. With all of these half-baked messages, Redemption seemed to fall flat when it mattered most in the finale, failing to nail its main sub-plot due to the film having too much on its own plate.
The film also tries a bit too hard to be artsy. Several scenes with Statham posing silently in an apartment are just that, with these scenes really not having any meaning behind them, unlike a film like Drive. These attempts just feel really half-assed, trying to fool audiences that there is something important when there really isn’t.
This film has quite a few bad sub-plots, and really never properly balances them out. From the story of a broken down nun, to even Statham pretending he is gay to freelance off of a person’s apartment, Redemption has many different arcs, with most of them feeling like time wasters rather than anything important. Perhaps if the film was longer they could have been more developed, or they just shouldn’t have been there at all.
The acting besides Statham really isn’t up to par. First time actress Agata Buzek shares several scenes with Statham, and just comes off kind of dull. Her character was very one note, and even when she tried to do other emotions, it seemed very robotic. While there are not a lot of other actors in the film, the ones that are give mediocre performances.
The man to blame here is Writer and Director Steven Knight. Knight is a talented man, an Oscar nominated talent even, but his script is all over the place, and his direction fails to balance out the script. This is Knight’s directorial debut, and it shows, as he lacks the experience to manage this film with a map.
Steven Knight’s attempt at a Drive-like art house action film never feels cohesive enough to really deliver. Statham is dynamite here, and it’s a shame his performance is wasted on largely messy material.
Take a Drink: for Jason Statham with long hair
Drink a 32 oz: when Statham threatens to murder someone with a spoon
Do a Shot: during the scenes where Statham tries to fool people that he is gay; yeah, what was the deal with that?