LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998) - LOCK, STOCK was a huge financial success that launched the careers of director Guy Ritchie and actors Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of Ritchie's work (as in, I don't get excited when he has a new movie coming out, but I'll eventually check it out sooner or later), but I appreciate and admire the fast-paced, dialogue-heavy style of his films. This one starts really good, and in true Ritchie fashion with lots of style, fast-paced editing, Scorsese-esque freeze frames and narration, great dialogue, and of course the thick Cockney accents, but as with Ritchie's other movies (for me, anyway), it gets old after a while and the story becomes somewhat hard to follow because of the amount of characters who are introduced. That being said, LOCK, STOCK is still quite a bit of fun. As Ritchie has proven since this film, he's able to create an interesting universe of fun characters who are grounded in reality but still over the top and imaginative. Jason Statham is good in it, but I wouldn't have guessed just based on this film that he was gonna be a huge star.
SNATCH. (2000) - Like Ritchie's other films, SNATCH is convoluted but fairly easy to follow if you pay enough attention. I have fond memories of watching this one in the early 00's, laughing at the dialogue and later drunkenly quoting the film with friends. Jason Statham plays Turkish - a small-time boxing promoter who gets mixed up with the mob and spends the entire movie trying to redeem himself and keep a "horrible cunt" known as Brick Top out of his hair. SNATCH is very similar to LOCK, STOCK in that it's stylishly identical and features an ensemble cast, except this one is a bit more all over the place in terms of its editing and how the narrative plays out. The characters are great, as is the cast (and the soundtrack!), but, admittedly, I've grown weary of the dialogue I once adored.
THE ONE (2001) - Jet Li travelling through time and trying to kill the Jet Lis of the alternate universes? Yeah, I dunno. Jason Statham and Delroy Lindo play intergalactic bounty hunters who follow the evil Jet Li to various alternate universes and try to stop him before he kills... himself. Statham and Lindo don't have the best chemistry, and Jet Li is one of the most uninteresting leading men I've ever seen. I get it: he's a legit bad-ass martial artist, and at one time he was one of the more recognizable household names when it came to action stars, but I find watching him in English-language movies to be almost unbearable. Another unfortunate aspect of the film, acting-wise, is that Jason Stathan takes a stab at an American accent, which is really awkward to listen to. Statham plays a supporting role and doesn't really do a whole lot except make some wise-ass comments and shoot people every once in a while. THE ONE is very much The Jet Li Show. If you like music by Drowning Pool and Papa Roach, as well as those post-MATRIX slow-motion action shots (ugh), you'll probably love this movie. As for me, I can't get into it.
CHAOS (2005) - Statham plays Quentin Connors - a detective who's been suspended for his involvement in an incident where both a criminal and a hostage were shot and killed by his former partner, who was relieved of his duties as a detective. His suspension is cut short, however, when a group of thieves (led by Wesley Snipes) stick up a bank and request that Statham's character be brought to the scene. Connors is re-hired on the spot and given a young rookie detective (Ryan Phillipe) as his partner. The whole set up is strange, and it seems like the heist is more of a trap, with the intention being to lure in Statham's character for whatever reason rather than steal money. There's quite a bit of back and forth between Statham and Snipes throughout the film, with Snipes saying a bunch of cryptic shit, like "Chaos has some order to it." For the most part, CHAOS is a pretty standard, by the numbers police procedural. Bland cinematography and a plot twist that you can see coming a mile away. Statham only kills one person in it. Highlight: Natassia Malthe attacking someone with a baseball bat whilst naked.
REVOLVER (2005) - Someone I know described this film as an "interesting mess", and I think that sums it up precisely. You'd think Guy Ritchie would go back to his roots after SWEPT AWAY got panned by critics and bombed at the box office, and while REVOLVER at least takes Ritchie back to the crime genre, it lacks the comedy, quirks, and Scorsese-isms that made his first two films so special. In fact, REVOLVER is just downright bizarre. A lot of the Kabbalah symbolism that Ritchie included in the film was indeed interesting, but I assume it all goes right over the head of the average viewer (such as myself) and, ultimately, doesn't make a lot of sense. Boring and tedious are words that come to mind, and I'd even go so far as to call it pretentious, although I do appreciate what the film has to offer from an artistic standpoint. I can just imagine a bunch of people watching this just because Statham is in it, only to be disappointed to find out that it's not a "Jason Statham movie" in the traditional sense. When it's all said and done, though, I do think some of the psychological elements are interesting, and it's beautifully-shot, which is something that you can usually count on when it comes to Ritchie's films.
IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE (2007) - To tell you the truth, I didn't even realize that this was an Uwe Boll film until it was over and I saw his name pop up on the end credits, and at that point it all kinda made sense. As with Boll's other films, there appears to be a lack of focus on his part in regards to getting good performances out of his actors. Not that the acting throughout the film is bad, but everyone seemed to be doing what they wanted and not what the director was telling them to do. Some of the actors do a decent enough job, some phone it in, and others chew up the scenery - sometimes all in the same scene. As far as Jason Statham, he's decent in this and seems to be taking the material fairly seriously (which may not have been the case, but it comes across that way).
The film is set in medieval times, and so the thought of Jason Statham slaying dragons was quite enticing. It wasn't the case, though. He did, however, battle a bunch of ogres, and he was also involved in a pretty ridiculous scene where he battles Ray Liotta (playing a wizard!) at the end of the film. Decent supporting cast. Ron Perlman, Kristanna Loken, Claire Forlani, and Ray Liotta are noteworthy names that I can think of at the moment. Speaking of which, this would make an interesting companion piece to REVOLVER, since both Statham and Liotta play foes in that one as well.
DEATH RACE (2008) - Yet another insultingly dumb Paul W.S. Anderson movie (quite possibly my least favorite filmmaker working today) in which Jason Statham assumes the role of "Frankenstein", who was originally portrayed by David Carradine in Roger Corman's DEATH RACE 2000 (Carradine makes a nice voice cameo as Statham's predecessor in this film). Whereas the original revolved around a cross-country race involving heavily-modified cars, where the object was to run over as many pedestrians as possible, this one takes place in a prison and revolves around a PPV reality show that features prisoners driving armored vehicles through obstacles and attempting to gun each other down with an arsenal of unique weaponry.
DEATH RACE is further proof that Paul W.S. Anderson thinks you're dumb. He incorporates all of these absurd ideas and moments into this particular film and apparently expects you to believe all of them, but yet he still feels the need to explain everything to you through some of the most blatantly expositional info-dumping dialogue I've ever heard. I can't stress a suspension of disbelief more than with this film. It takes place in the most pathetic prison I've ever seen, which apparently houses some of the most dangerous criminals in the world, but yet the prisoners walk around freely with as little supervision as possible. It's the most minimum-security maximum-security prison I've ever seen. On top of that, there are these gorgeous women who look like strippers (A-sqaud strippers, mind you) mingling with the male prisoners as if it's no big deal, like we're supposed to believe that at least one of them won't get dragged into a storage room and raped to death by some tattooed gorilla who's serving multiple life sentences.
One of the biggest insults comes at the very end, when, after watching a film about a bunch of unrealistically-modified cars with fucking missiles strapped to them, a title card pops up reminding the viewer not to try anything depicted in the film at home. You mean I'm not supposed to strap a giant fucking machine gun to the top of my Mustang and shoot at people? Thanks, Paul!
By now you're probably thinking that this movie has its own special place on my shit list, but you know what? I'm not ashamed to say that I love DEATH RACE and actually prefer it much more to the original despite it having a much more interesting idea and aesthetic. True, DEATH RACE is substancially retarded and seemingly made for the lowest common denominator, but, for me, it's an absolute blast to watch. The cars are awesome. It's well over ninety minutes long but only feels like an hour because of how fast-paced and exciting it is. It's extremely high on entertainment value and re-watchability. All of the characters (even some of the lesser characters who don't make it to the end of the film) are great. Most importantly, Jason Statham is a bad-ass in it and he's built like a fucking tank. I generally avoid Paul W.S. Anderson movies, but DEATH RACE is the one exception that I enjoy immensely.
THE MECHANIC (2011) - A trustworthy source referred to THE MECHANIC as one of the better Statham films to have come out in the last year, so I went into it with an open mind. I should say that, while I do find the original Charles Bronson MECHANIC to be a well-done film, I personally don't hold it in very high regard and probably won't ever re-watch it again unless I do some sort of Bronson marathon. Now that I've obviously seen it, I can't say that I enjoyed Statham's MECHANIC or feel that it lived up to even the most moderate of expectations, but I was quite relieved to find that it's indeed a remake with a lot of the same elements as the original rather than a re-boot or a very loose remake.
Like Bronson in the original, Statham plays someone who's like a step above a hitman. If hitmen were ordinary street-walkers, Statham's character would be like a high-priced escort. Basically, you get your money's worth and there won't be as much of a mess when it's all said and done. And, like Jan-Michael Vincent in the original, Ben Foster plays Statham's apprentice who's being groomed to be a fellow "mechanic". Considering the original was a slow burn, I was pretty open to this remake essentially betraying the original and taking a much more explosive and over the top approach to the characters and whatnot, and while I think it tried to do that, I was honestly really bored while watching it. There's not much of a plot, and they (Statham and Foster) pretty much spend most of the movie just going around and killing people; normally that would be fine with me, but in this case it gets to be repetitive. In the end, THE MECHANIC just seems really pointless.