This week Jason Statham goes up against James Franco in the Sylvester Stallone-scripted action film, Homefront. This month also brings us Thanksgiving. In fact, the two happen on the same day. So let's buck the haters and thank Hollywood for Jason Statham, whose continuing onscreen presence seems more assured than ever thanks to his involvement with the Fast and Furious and Expendables franchises.
He's Great at Action
OK, this one goes without saying, especially when it comes to driving fast cars. Whether he's on top of the world (Transporter) or the bottom (Death Race), few actors have become known for action driving like Jason Statham. His hand-to-hand combat contributions always look great, too, largely because he does many of them himself.
He Is a Surprisingly Great Actor
Hear us out. Statham has more versatility than people may realize. His cockney criminal characters in Snitch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are nothing like his slick-suited getaway driver inTransporter, who in turn is far different than the maniac Chev Chelios of the Crank films. He can even do emotion, as his breakdown near the end of Redemption and a sorrowful scene in the upcoming Homefront prove. If he ever breaks out of the action genre, his talent may surprise people who only know him for, well, driving fast cars.
This may not be the most obvious thing about Mr. Statham, but he's got a sense of humor. You can see it in his early work with Guy Richie and you can really see it in the Crank series. Statham's not the kind of guy who can deliver punch lines like Adam Sandler, but he does play a strong straight man who shows a dry wit through even the craziest situations.
He Plays Well with Others
He can hold his own as an action star but is equally at home in an ensemble. He seems to know that a good action film should have charisma all-round, not just in the center. Obviously, this bodes well for his impending Fast and Furious debut. As he told us recently about the Expendables 3 cast, "Everybody's like what I call spit and sawdust. Not pretentious."
Statham frequently plays characters who are precise, professional, and totally have subscriptions to Dwell Magazine. They're probably all great chefs, too. Look, even his assassin character in The Mechanic had a $2,000 record player. He's often in an impeccable suit and if behind the wheel, it's going to be in a luxury vehicle in pristine condition--at least until the next big chase.
…But He Can Also Wear a Blue Collar
That being said, he can also fit in with the blue-collar crowd. Somehow he manages to look just as natural in a flannel shirt and baseball cap as he does in a suit and tie—see Homefront, which has him living in a Louisiana backwater with his kid. He occupies both sides of life quite well in Redemption, too. How he pulls this off despite that clipped, snootiness-implying accent, we're not sure.
He Played Chev Chelios
There are people who love the Crank films, and there are people who think they're hyperactive, amoral and annoying. But few can deny the all-out awesomeness of Chev Chelios. Through two films, the guy does tons of drugs, survives a fall from a helicopter, turns into a Kaiju, and has the gumption to flip off his audience while doused in flames. Whether you want him in the Action Hall of Fame or not, he's an all-timer.
He Was in Redemption
Redemption (aka Hummingbird) went straight to video in America, a real shame because it's one of Statham's very best films. Its departure from action standards and focus on drama probably explains why it never made it to theaters, but it's not like the film is action-free. Those scenes are just used sparingly. If you haven't seen it, don't let the VOD label turn you off from checking it out.
He Tries New Things
Look closely at Statham's filmography, and it becomes clear that, while safe within action confines, he's always trying new things. It's just that you have to actually watch the films to see it. Blitz, for instance, is not so much an action film as a gritty cop drama. Redemption is both a drama and a love story. The Bank Job is a thorough heist throwback. When it comes to action, he's played just about every side of the spectrum.
He's One of the Last Great Action Stars
Sure, we have guys like The Rock, who seems to be in at least 10 films a year, and old-guard heroes like Willis, Schwarzenegger and Stallone still kicking around. But there are definitely less of them now, and no one has stepped up yet to take their place. Statham's one of the few younger guys left who can get people to his movies regardless of what it's about or who else stars in the film. This means at least once a year we can look forward to another big B-action blast from the actor. And who would want to live in a world without that?