Fifteen years ago, a then-fledgling British director named Guy Ritchie took a chance on a clothing model named Jason Statham. From his early Guy Ritchie days to Transport-ing and kicking butt in a number of action thrillers, we take a look at the career (thus far) of Statham, who stars in this weekend's Parker.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
It all began here. In 1998, Guy Ritchie took a chance on a one-time street vendor (a role he also plays in the beginning of this movie) and cast Statham in the role of Bacon. Positive reviews and box office success led to more work for Statham. The rest, as they say, is history.
Two years after Lock, Stock, Statham re-teamed with Guy Ritchie to play small-time boxing promoter and casino owner Turkish in Snatch. The film was a success, grossing $83 million worldwide against a $10 million budget.
Ghosts of Mars
Every new actor has a few missteps along the way and Statham's first came in the form of John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars. Statham plays Sergeant Jericho who, along with his team, is sent to pick up and transport a prisoner named Desolation Williams (Ice Cube) from a literal ghost town. Horror, death, destruction and bad reviews follow, with the movie barely making back half its budget.
Jason Statham plus Jet Li. Pretty awesome pairing on paper. The duo would team for the first of four films in James Wong's action flick about a supernatural criminal (Li) who is able to travel interdimensionally through wormholes. Statham and his partner are tasked with tracking him down.
A British dramedy and adaptation of the 1974 Burt Reynolds flick The Longest Yard, Statham plays a violent Scottish maximum security prison inmate named Monk. The film essentially follows the formula set by Longest Yard, only it's soccer instead of American football that the cons play.
If you had to pick a movie where Statham took the next leap in his acting career, it would have to be The Transporter. The Luc Besson written and produced action flick featured Statham as highly skilled driver Frank Martin. He lives his life by three rules: Rule #1: "No new deals, when it's a deal, it's a deal", Rule #2: "No names", and Rule #3: "Don't open the package". Needless to say, he breaks all three with co-star Shu Qi, and frankly, who can blame him.
The Italian Job
You know you've made it when you're starring in a movie opposite Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Donald Sutherland, to name a few. This 2003 remake of the 1969 Michael Caine movie finds Statham playing Handsome Rob, the getaway driver of Wahlberg's group of thieves. Italian Job was a massive hit, flirting with a $200 million worldwide box office and firmly launching Statham to a new plateau.
Granted it's only a brief cameo appearance, but Statham appears as the guy who bumps into Tom Cruise at the airport in Michael Mann's 2004 crime thriller.
Statham jumps into the thriller genre with this David Ellis film co-starring Kim Basinger and Chris Evans. Playing the villainous gang leader Ethan, Statham kidnaps Basinger and sets in motion a series of twists and turns in this 2004 hit.
Teamed with a young detective played by Ryan Phillippe, Statham takes on Wesley Snipes and his band of bank robbers who have taken hostages. The film plays up the well-known Chaos Theory, where all the seemingly chaotic and unrelated events in the beginning of the film are actually linked to each other.
Returning as Frank Martin, Statham is tasked with rescuing a young boy who is kidnapped from a wealthy family for whom he is working as a chauffeur. While profitable, the film was marked with long fight sequences and silly action scenes that temporarily cooled plans for any future Transporter movies.
Statham goes dramatic and reunties with Cellular co-stars Jessica Biel and Chris Evans in this 2006 romantic drama centered on a Manhattan party. Grossing $20K at the box office after a limited run, this critically reviled film marks the worst performing film in Statham's filmography.
Completing his hat trick of Guy Ritchie movies, Statham stars alongside Ray Liotta and Andre Benjamin. The plot is simple; After spending seven years in solitary confinement, Statham's chess expert/con man Jake Green is seeking revenge on Liotta's Dorothy Macha for a set-up. Revolver sputtered at the box office en route to $6 million worldwide take.
The Pink Panther
Playing French soccer coach, Yves Gluant, Statham is seen kissing The Pink Panther diamond before becoming the latest victim the hapless Inspector Clouseau (played by Steve Martin) must investigate. Though it received largely negative reviews, this reboot grossed $182 million and spawned a 2009 sequel.
The adrenaline rush of all adrenaline rush movies. Sure the concept is pretty outlandish and silly, but Statham pulls off the role of Chev Chelios in spades. The plot centers on British hitman Chelios who has been poisoned and needs to keep his heart beating long enough to exact revenge. The film was generally well-received and spawned a 2009 sequel.
In his second movie co-starring Jet Li, Statham's FBI agent John Crawford is once again tasked with chasing down a notorious assassin, Rogue, played by Li. The film culminates in an intense hand-to-hand showdown between the two, though critics and audiences essentially K.O.'d this film with negative reviews.
The Bank Job
A criminally underrated (no pun intended), critically lauded film, The Bank Job finds Statham's Terry leading a foolproof bank hit in London. Featuring a smart script with command performances, The Bank Job is a film for people who think Statham can't act and is all rah-rah butt-kicking. All though he is that too.
Returning to the action-thriller genre, Statham's ex-con Jensen Ames is forced to compete in a series of deadly prison car races. Scripted and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Death Race launced a pair of sequels, with Death Race 3: Inferno set to hit theaters in December.
The Transporter trilogy is completed with Statham's Frank Martin driving the kidnapped daughter of a Ukranian government official from Marseilles to Odessa. Of course, he's not very good at adhering to his three rules and ends up contending with thugs who want to intercept his delivery.
Crank 2: High Voltage
Continuing a year of sequels, Statham returns to the Crank franchise. This time, Chelios is tracking down a Chinese mobster who stole his nearly indestructible heart with a battery-powered version that require regular jolts of electricity to keep working.
Gela Babulani remakes his tense 2005 Russian roulette crime thriller with an all-star cast. A double-cross subplot took away from the tense simplicity of the original film, but given the acting talent assembled, 13 manages to do a nice job in translating the horror of Russian roulette, Hollywood-style.
It's kind of impressive to think that after only 14 years in the action genre, Statham is considered an heir apparent to the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Lundgren, all of whom star in this testosterone-fueled who's who of action stars (and pro athletes turned action stars). The first film round-housed its way to nearly $300 million at the box office and spawned two sequels and counting. And yes, this is movie number 3, co-starring with Jet Li.
Though it shares the same title as the 1972 Charles Bronson film, Simon West's update takes a darker, more violent turn. Co-starring Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland, The Mechanic follows Statham's hitman who teaches his profession to an apprentice.
Though it went direct-to-video in the U.S., Blitz finds Statham continuing his string of crime thrillers, this time as a cop looking to take down a serial killer who is targeting police officers. The cat-and-mouse story features a devilishly good performance from Aiden Gillen.
Gnomeo and Juliet
Even tough guys can do cartoons. Statham voiced the hot-headed Prince of Cats, Tybalt in this animated hit. As Juliet's cousin, he is the leader of the younger generation of Capulets fighting the Montagues.
The Killer Elite
Statham's most recent film finds his opposite Robert DeNiro as they attempt to kill three assassins and their cunning leader (Clive Owen). The film was based on a true story and hops around the globe from Australia to Paris, London and the Middle East.
If you've got a little girl that needs protecting from unsavory types like the Russian mob, corrupt cops and Traid gangsters, Statham's your guy. Be sure to watch him kick all sorts of butt in Safe.
The Expendables 2
In The Expendables 2 Statham teams back up with Li for his 4th film, along with just about every action star still alive. Need an action overload? Look no further.
Statham's latest butt-kicking extravaganza has him playing a thief with a unique code of professional ethics. When he's double-crossed by his team and left for dead, Statham teams up with Jennifer Lopez to get even.