THE TRANSPORTER (2002) - Not a perfect film by any stretch, but the quintessential Statham movie in my opinion, and the film that defined his career. TRANSPORTER allowed him to step up from being a secondary actor in action films to getting the spotlight for himself and shining as an action star. Statham plays a professional driver who does everything from personal escorts to getaway driving for criminals, just so long as his clients abide by his strict set of rules. Things take a turn for Statham's character when he strays from his own guidelines to help someone, and thus interfering with what one of his clients hired him to do, which of course leads to repercussions and Statham becoming a target for the criminals who he betrayed. Great villain (Matt Schulze), gorgeous "damsel in distress" (Qi Shu), tons of action and exceptional stunt work, and Statham being a bad-ass.
THE TRANSPORTER 2 (2005) - Different in tone from the first TRANSPORTER in that it's a bit more over the top and hyperstylized, with a very "French" feel if that makes any sense. The selling point here is Statham's character (who, in hindsight, is a very iconic figure of modern-day action cinema), and in that respect the film delivers. However, it's not nearly as good as the first film. The script is really weak, and the film as a whole is an obvious cash cow that doesn't really bring anything new to the table except introduce new obstacles for Statham's character. I like that there are two main villains in the film who work together, and while I love the female villain (played by Kate Nauta), it doesn't change the fact that she's quite generic, which can also be said for her partner in crime. It is what it is, though. TRANSPORTER 2 is fast-paced, full of action, watchable as a standalone film, and not a complicated movie by any means.
LONDON (2005) - A romantic drama that revolves around the messy break-up of Chris Evans and Jessica Biel's characters. Evans subsequently spirals into a world of depression and booze, and when he finds out that Biel's character is moving out of town, he crashes her going-away party at an upscale condo with an acquaintance (Statham), but they spend most of the night in the bathroom snorting coke, drinking booze, and getting philosophical as a revolving door of ladies join in on the festivities. Aside from being a pretty solid film altogether, LONDON is noteworthy for having an interesting cast and featuring Statham in a role where he doesn't have to beat anyone up and actually gets to show his acting chops. Kat Dennings, Dane Cook, and Louis C.K. are just a few of the supporting cast members who come to mind, as well as that cute chick from BULLY. Evans, Statham, and Biel (looking her absolute hottest in this) appeared together just a year earlier in CELLULAR, which featured Statham in a rare bad guy role.
CRANK (2006) - Statham plays Chev Chelios - a hitman who betrays his employer and subsequently gets injected with some "synthetic Chinese shit" that doesn't necessarily kill him but requires he maintain a high level of adrenaline if he wants to stay alive. As he attempts to seek retribution on the crime lord who fucked his world up, he essentially has to keep moving and do whatever he can to stay alive, even if it means pumping his body full of dangerous substances, picking fights with random people, or having sex with his girlfriend (Amy Smart) in public. CRANK is visually assaulting right from the very first scene, and the film as a whole provides the novelty of a tough-guy actor like Jason Statham involved in some truly ridiculous set-pieces. While some of the visual techniques that filmmakers Neveldine and Taylor utilize in order to create a consistently manic atmosphere are effective, a critique on my part would be that the overall look of the film is quite bland (something that was improved upon tenfold in the sequel). Statham is great though, and Amy Smart is one of those rare actresses who can simultaneously pull off sexy and adorable.
THE BANK JOB (2008) - Based on a true story about a group of thieves in London who robbed a bank and in doing so uncovered some incriminating photos involving an important politician. A very odd but well-done heist movie that doesn't know if it wants to be funny or dead serious. One moment we get the comedy and quirky behavior that wouldn't feel out of place in a Guy Ritchie film, and the next moment we get a very dark scene where someone's being tortured or a woman is being chopped up with a machete and buried in someone's back yard. Personally, I really love the look of the film; not just the aesthetic and the fact that the film is set in the early 70's and does a great job of capturing the feel of that time, but every single aspect about the visuals right down to the costume and set design. I also find it to be a very "watchable" film with a good enough pace, but it's the uneven tone that doesn't sit well with me. Also, there's a surprising amount of nudity in this, which isn't a bad thing.
THE TRANSPORTER 3 (2008) - An eco-terrorist kidnaps the wild-child daughter of the head of Ukraine's Environmental Protection Agency, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), and uses her for leverage until he signs some documents that will apparently allow them to pollute the world with toxic waste or something. I don't know. Statham's character comes into play when the villain straps an explosive to his wrist and forces him to escort the abducted young lady to a certain location. That being said, the third TRANSPORTER is a road movie with interspersed scenes of car chases and well-choreographed fight scenes in which Statham singlehandedly destroys large groups of stuntmen. While it's still over the top in terms of action, it's not as hyperstylized or absurd as its predecessor, which is neither good nor bad. However, it still doesn't touch the first TRANSPORTER in terms of action and stunt work. Worthwhile as an action film and time-killer, but the story is uninteresting and Rudakova's character may get on your last nerve.
CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009) - The filmmaking duo of Neveldine and Taylor seem to have their share of nay-sayers and non-believers, but I for one am a huge fan of their directorial efforts, and especially the second CRANK film in particular. The first time I saw this film was in theaters, and I remember sitting there stunned and in complete adoration at how vulgar and absurd this movie was (at the time, I had never seen the first CRANK film and pretty much went into it blind, sold solely on the fact that it was scored by Mike Patton). It still holds up for me as a highly-entertaining, ludicrous action film laced with satisfying amounts of profanity, gratuitous nudity, and graphic violence. I'll be the first to point out its flaws and admit that the fast-paced nature of the film can get old after a while, but the shortcomings of the film never take away from the high level of enjoyment that I personally get out of it. This is easily Jason Statham at his most over the top, and Mike Patton's score is incredibly underappreciated. HIGH VOLTAGE is essentially the first film turned up to eleven. It's so good in comparison to its predecessor that I don't even consider it a sequel; I think of the first film as a prequel to CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE.
13 (2010) - Georgian director Géla Babluani remakes his own award-winning film, 13 TZAMETI, and casts quite the ensemble this time around. Jason Statham, Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke, Michael Shannon, Ben Gazzara, and Fiddy Cent just to name a few. 13 is about a destitute young man (Sam Riley) who seizes an opportunity to make some money and inadvertently winds up as a participant in a Russian Roulette tournament. A secretive underground group of gamblers represent their own participants in the tournament (most of whom are there against their will) and place bets on their men. The tournament goes trough a series of rounds depending on how many people are killed, and as each person advances in the tournament, an extra bullet is put into their gun, which obviously decreases the odds of winning.
The concept of 13 is really interesting, unique, and twisted, and in fact the whole Russian Roulette tournament is very well-executed in terms of the rules being established and how it plays out, but keep in mind that 13 is very character-driven as opposed to it being about the actual tournament. Without giving anything away, the last thirty minutes of the film lost me, but I enjoyed the first hour and especially the Russian Roulette scenes, which were quite tense. While the ensemble cast made the film a tad bit more interesting than if it would have featured actors of lesser popularity, the presence of people like Winstone and even Statham seemed pointless, and in the end it was only Mickey Rourke (amongst the bigger names) who really stood out despite his generic character.
BLITZ (2011) - A cool throwback to the old-school police procedural cop-versus-killer movies. Statham plays a Dirty Harry type of crusty detective who winds up investigating a series of cop-killings as committed by a mysterious madman known as "the Blitz Killer". There's also a bit of culture shock when Statham is paired up with an openly homosexual detective played by Paddy Considine. Speaking of which, Statham and Considine have great chemistry together. An interesting aspect of both of their characters (but mostly in Statham's case) is that they have troubled pasts and are still coming to terms with their respective issues. That being said, BLITZ is equal parts character and plot-driven, which makes what could have been an otherwise by the numbers police procedural interesting; it's just as much about the cat-and-mouse as it is about Statham being burnt out and the camaraderie amongst the cops in the darkest of times. BLITZ is a gritty film with scenes of nasty violence and some well-written wise-ass dialogue. Actor Aidan Gillen is brilliant as the Blitz Killer, evoking an amount of sleaze that would make him right at home in an 80's Cannon film.
Viva La Statham